Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has only been in office a few days but he hasn’t wasted any time in reversing the policies of his Democratic predecessors, most notably on the controversial issue of mask requirements in schools.
Not only is he facing opposition from the counties he lost in the November election but he has a growing number of parents who are “breathing fire” over his executive action about mask-wearing in schools which comes in the middle of the latest spike in coronavirus cases.
Youngkin, taking advantage of parents’ frustrations with remote learning and what many viewed as a lack of autonomy over their children’s schooling, signed the order last Saturday — his first day in office. His order says, “parents should have the ability to decide whether their child should wear masks for the duration of the school day,” which counts as a clear attempt to end mask mandates in public schools.
The mask mandate order, as well as nine other orders and two directives, has set off a firestorm of controversy and will inevitably become the new governor’s first of many huge tests.
While the former governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, made masks in schools part of a public health emergency order, Youngkin has moved in the opposite direction, making good on his campaign promise which was key to his victory and which goes into effect on Jan. 24.
Already, school officials in Northern Virginia, including Arlington and Fairfax counties, as well as Henrico County in the Richmond area, say they’ll maintain mask requirements for children despite Youngkin’s order.
And there’s more. Youngkin asserts that masks are ineffective, providing little or no health benefit — something which the science behind mask-wearing clearly disputes. He also argues that vaccines should not be mandated for children ages 5 — 12, adding that vaccines are available should parents choose to have their kids vaccinated.
Of course parents should have a say on safety measures that affect their children and the curriculum that is taught in the classroom. But in this case, it feels like citizens of the Commonwealth have become entangled in a potentially deadly game of ping-pong or tennis. And rather than a small ball being the object of focus, it’s the welfare and lives of our children.