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Two voices: Parents fighting for and against Duval County Schools' mask mandate

One calls it a concession for the common good. The other says it’s a ‘stepping stone’ to authoritarianism.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Gregory Adame is one of 18 plaintiffs suing to block Duval County Schools’ mask mandate.

Agata Gardner lobbied the School Board to adopt it.

With the mask mandate set to take effect Tuesday, and Circuit Judge Gary Wilkinson set to review plaintiffs’ request for an emergency hearing that same day, First Coast News asked both sides to weigh in.

GREGORY ADAME: Our daughter had an issue last year.

She was outside she was running on a track outside. She told me was that she was actually scared to take her mask off … because some of the teachers told her, “you need to wear your mask, you can't pull it down because you might get sick and die.”

She was vomiting … lethargic.

She went to school on the first day [this year] and came home and she's all, “My best friend’s wearing a mask.” And I said, “OK, well, that's fine.” I said, “We don't believe in that.”

I definitely don't want her being in a mask, if at all possible.

AGATA GARDNER: Masks have to be universally worn for it to do any good, for it to make any difference. I've heard time and time again, at these School Board meetings, parents [saying], “You feel free to do what you want to do, and I'm going to do what I want to do.” Well, that's fine if your decision doesn't harm me, or my child or my family.

The analogy that I have come to use, it’s like saying: “I'm going to cover my coughs and sneezes for you. And I'd appreciate you do the same for me.” And them saying, “Oh, no, I'd rather not, I'm going to cough in your face.”

GREGORY ADAME: My personal opinion, I don't believe that they work. We're not real big on masking ourselves or children

I think that there was a lot of back and forth with some of the information with masks: “Masks are effective,” and then they say “well, masks are not effective,” then they say, “well, you have to wear double masks.” Then they say you have to wear an N95.  

Now, if they were to come to us and say, look, “Everybody has to wear an N95.” OK, that makes more sense to me.

I don't know that there's a good, solid reason why they should be wearing masks in schools, when they're probably most likely not wearing them at home, or anywhere else.

AGATA GARDNER: To me, this whole argument has just become insanely politicized. We've lost sight of the fact that we are in a public health emergency. We had two children die in Jacksonville in the last couple of days of COVID complications. My doctor friends are coming home from their shifts bawling because of the pain and suffering they're seeing every day in our hospitals. This is not a personal choice. You know, universal masking is something that science and scientists and our doctors are telling us: This will help. And for parents who are saying, “You should respect my decision to send my child to school without a mask” -- I would respect that if it didn't put my child in danger.

GREGORY ADAME: It's not that I don't trust the science. But I think that it’s our right to be able to sit down and not just trust them completely

I think the goal with the masks, the masking came first, and then the vaccines and stuff came out. And I think that it was partially, again, this is just my opinion, I think it was partially made as a gauge to see how could how much compliance can we get.

There are some people that believe [vaccines are] a depopulation thing. I mean, I don't want to speak on that. I don't know enough about it. I haven't really read too much about that portion of it. But there's a whole community of people out there that really do believe it's a depopulation thing.

AGATA GARDNER: The science is clear. And I don't know why we're ignoring it and choosing politics and this false narrative of parental rights over the health of our community.

I'll just add that honestly, as a parent, I'm tired of actively trying to fight for common-sense public health. This should be a no-brainer measure of protection for our children, for our community.

I don't know why we're still having this conversation. I don't know how it's become so politicized. And it's exhausting for those of us who are sending our kids to school just praying that they're not going to be sat next to the unmasked kid who's going to bring COVID home.

It's stressful for all of us. And I just wish we could unite as parents, you know, for the common good. I feel like we've become so divided. It's a hard place to be. This whole right and left, Conservative versus liberal thing has just been taken to an extreme at a time when we really just need to come together.

GREGORY ADAME: My whole life, I've been a fireman, I've been a paramedic, and, you know, my whole life, I've kind of subscribed to the whole “Send me” aspect. You know, we look at the Bible, and you believe in God -- which we do -- you know, maybe I was tasked for this.

AGATA GARDNER: I feel like we're fighting for the unvaccinated, you know? Those who are vaccinated, who this isn't going to kill, are fighting to protect the people -- who have unvaccinated members of their family who are in denial of this -- from dying. And that's just the irony of the whole situation.