BOISE, Idaho — Some parents in the Treasure Valley are concerned with school districts ditching mask mandates for the coming school year.
The Boise School District was the most recent district to drop its mandate, voting unanimously to encourage masks for unvaccinated students and staff. Masks are optional for those who are vaccinated.
Boise schools now join Caldwell, Nampa, Kuna, and the West Ada School District to no longer mandate masks for the upcoming year.
It has some parents like Cristi Cota concerned. Her family has firsthand experience with COVID-19 as her husband is a nurse.
“He’s been working with COVID patients this entire time. In our household It’s very important that we protect ourselves as much as possible,” Cota said. “It’s a little bit premature. Because we don’t have it under control yet. There are still many cases, there are a lot of active cases, and there are still people dying from it.”
Meanwhile, others have already seen what school looks like without mask mandates, and they’re not concerned. Ashley Ferris is visiting the Treasure Valley to see her family. Back in Iowa, her kids spent last spring in school without masks.
Ferris thinks it should be optional for everyone.
“If schools have the proper hygiene, there shouldn’t be that recommendation,” Ferris said. “We had a month left in the school year and they made masks optional. Actually, we had more kids in school, nobody was getting sick.”
All talking points tend to be born from one’s individual personal experience. However, Dr. David Pate, a member of Governor Brad Little’s Coronavirus Work Group, said that can be a problem because anecdotally, people can arrive at inaccurate conclusions.
“I didn’t – but now maybe I went out last night driving while intoxicated and I got home and I didn’t get in a crash and I didn't kill anybody and I didn’t get killed,” Dr. Pate said. “That doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive while intoxicated.”
There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with each other, as long as everyone agrees on a core set of facts, said Dr. Pate. Chief among those key facts are the rise of the delta variant. It is more contagious, more likely to spread among younger people, and potentially more dangerous according to Pate.
He said the delta variant is going to be the predominant circulating strand of the virus.
“There’s a lot of people that got away with risky behaviors,” Dr. Pate said. “At some point, you do start having diminishing chances of continued luck.”
Vaccines are not approved in children 12 years old; however, the FDA could approve vaccines for children young as 5 years old in September, according to Dr. Pate.
Because of that, he questions the motive behind school boards moving forward with the decisions. He said if safety is truly the top priority, they would wait.
“Why not wait until it’s authorized for all school children and give them an opportunity to be vaccinated, and then do away with the mask mandate,” Pate said.
For parents like Cristi Cota, vaccination is the deciding factor for whether their kids return to in-person school or not.
“If they were unvaccinated or not able to be, we likely would still continue with online,” Cota said.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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