Notes from the Covid Classroom #4
Basketball and mask madness
Two weeks ago, my school held another Health and Safety meeting. Faculty and staff met virtually after school even though we spent the day in the same building surrounded by kids and, at times, in close proximity to each other.
I thought of meeting virtually as a setback, since last time we had a meeting we gathered in person. But with a large number of my colleagues out with Covid - all of whom have taken the “vaccine,” and some of whom have certainly boosted - since returning from Christmas break, and many students also testing positive, I had a feeling my administration would attempt to “mitigate the spread” by making it look like they had some semblance of control over the Omicron surge. And I had a feeling the protocol update would include more nonsensical measures with no actual bearing on the trajectory of the virus.
The first order my administration discussed concerned contact tracing. Ok. Fine, I thought. More of the same old, same old. The students must stay in their grade cohorts; they cannot intermingle because then tracking and tracing becomes more difficult - or impossible. Nothing new here with this one.
But I was floored by what I heard next.
The middle school basketball team, made up of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, must now wear masks while they play. And parents and fans can no longer attend games. I could barely keep my cool after hearing this announcement. My administration - with the guidance of the Health and Safety Committee - decided to return to peak 2020 hysteria with these measures. I immediately made my grievances known. I called the administration out on this lunacy and I offered to show them - again - the scientific literature demonstrating that cloth and surgical masks do no provide protection against an aerosolized respiratory pathogen. Furthermore, I explained that making children wear a mask during a physical activity would have a deleterious impact on their health.
Every single faculty member at my school now understands my stance on masks and other absurd measures, like not allowing parents in the gym to watch their kids play. Prior to this, I met with my administration privately to challenge their protocols, such as the outdoor lunch policy and mandatory masking, and I have only spoken one on one with a few colleagues about the inanity of all these measures. I garnered little to no support from fellow teachers after speaking with them before this meeting. But since this new mask policy restricts the breathing of children during an aerobic activity, I thought someone else would finally speak up….but nobody else said a word.
In fact, my principal reprimanded me for speaking out a few days later, because some of my colleagues claimed that I “upset them” for questioning the policy on masking, and they were “nervous” that I would refuse to follow the school’s protocols. Talk about mass formation…. These “nervous” teachers want complete ideological conformity. A verbal challenge to the barbaric “health and safety guidelines” at a meeting made some of my colleagues “uncomfortable.” These individuals do not consider whether any of the kids, or their fellow coworkers, feel uncomfortable in a mask all day long. Because they place their faith in the face covering, questioning masks, therefore, is tantamount to blaspheming their religion. Ultimately, these colleagues of mine fear a challenge to their two-year long cultish devotion to masks from heretics like myself.
But, contrary to the mask maniacs beliefs, forcing children to wear a mask - or anyone, for that matter - can certainly lead to serious health complications, which they would shamefully realize if they could, for a moment, allow a critical thought or an alternative perspective to enter their sealed off skulls.
A major paper published by German researches, for instance, detailed the myriad repercussions individuals face when masking:
Increase in dead space volume
Increase in breathing resistance
Increase in blood carbon dioxide
Decrease in blood oxygen saturation
Increase in heart rate
Decrease in cardiopulmonary capacity
Feeling of exhaustion
Increase in respiratory rate
Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
Feeling of dampness and heat
Drowsiness (qualitative neurological deficits)
Decrease in empathy perception
Impaired skin barrier function with acne, itching and skin lesions
The German researchers concluded their paper by stating:
The described mask-related changes in respiratory physiology can have an adverse effect on the wearer’s blood gases sub-clinically and in some cases also clinically manifest and, therefore, have a negative effect on the basis of all aerobic life, external and internal respiration, with an influence on a wide variety of organ systems and metabolic processes with physical, psychological and social consequences for the individual human being.
Now, even though the Omicron surge has already begun to wane, and anyone with any sense knows that it poses no greater threat than a common cold, the basketball players must still wear masks. And parent’s, for yet another season, cannot watch their children play.
I am an assistant varsity basketball coach at my alma mater, a small town school 16.3 miles away from the school where I teach. At my former school, a public school, masks are optional, so none of the coaches wear one, and the kids only put them on when riding the bus to away games, because the federal mandate for district transportation still stands.
Ultimately, nobody cares about Covid.
We joke about it.
The basketball team does not worry about catching a cold.
So, in under 24 hours, I spend time at two schools located in the same county, but that feel worlds apart when it comes to Covid and culture. The school where I am a teacher - an affluent private school in the city - continues to engage in containment ideology: Students must still “socially distance.” They also eat outdoors in the cold - although the pushback from myself and some parents has succeeded and the administration now allows the kids to come inside to eat on the coldest and windiest of days. However, mandatory masking is strictly enforced inside the building (just not by me, of course). Basketball players cannot even play with faces free of cloth, and parents can no longer attend their kid’s games.
The school where I am a basketball coach - a small town, rural public school - regained normality once the statewide mask mandate got shot down by the courts a little over a month ago. The students at this school do not have to wear a mask while in class, let alone while they’re playing a sport. Parents, grandparents, and anyone else in the community who wants to come cheer on the team can do so. The gym remains open to all, and since fans do not have to wear masks, practically none of them do.
The school where I coach has taken the sane path by now accepting the risks of an endemic seasonal pathogen that poses little threat to the general public and no threat whatsoever to the young. But where I teach, the administration remains fixated on more and more interventions, none of which have done a single thing to reduce transmission rates or protect anyone from getting sick.
Last night, my basketball team played the high school that many of my middle school students will attend after eighth grade. It’s the big private high school in my area.
I always want to win, but last night I really wanted to win. The game was away at the private school, so fans and coaches were required to mask while in the gym (fortunately, the players did not have to wear masks during play). I simply refused to wear a mask. And so did some of the visiting fans from the school where I coach. Nobody said a word to me or the fans who did not comply. The home fans - private school bourgeois families - all complied with the mask policy. Perhaps they felt a sense of superiority in their obedience. Maybe they looked their noses down on us small town folks who refuse to play pandemic with them by covering our faces. But, conceivably, some of these docile mask wearing spectators may have gazed at our free faces with envy.
Unfortunately, my team lost the game, and by a significant margin.
But, since everyone could see my face, I smiled anyway.