I remember teachers and students arguing about class going remote after spring break. This was my senior year of high school in mid-March of 2020. Many thought the idea of virtual education was extreme. After all, we knew little about COVID-19 at the time.
To the surprise of many, classes were both remote and optional after spring break. My graduating class graduated virtually rather than at a stadium. COVID-19 cases across the country soared instead of graduation caps.
I can’t imagine what would have happened in my high school if in-person classes continued after spring break, let alone in-person classes across the country. Though some thought virtual education was extreme, taking this precaution likely saved the lives of countless students and faculty. While this was merely a year and half ago, it seems we have forgotten the importance of COVID-19 precautions.
With the success of the vaccine, many people overlook masks among other COVID-19 precautions. But COVID-19 cases are surging in Iowa, primarily among the unvaccinated. We need to continue taking all precautions, especially in schools.
Schools across the state have struggled to establish solid COVID-19 protocols with Gov. Kim Reynolds ban on mask-mandates and pressure to return to pre-pandemic education.
However, On Sept. 13, Federal Judge Robert Pratt ordered the state of Iowa to put a temporary halt on the law banning school boards to set mask mandates.
Pratt wrote, “Because Plaintiffs have shown that Iowa Code section 280.31’s ban on mask mandates in schools substantially increases their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 and that due to their various medical conditions they are at an increased risk of severe illness or death, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that an irreparable harm exists.”
Since this ruling, Iowa City Community School District and Cedar Rapids Community School District school boards among others have reinstated the mask mandate.
I applaud schools that have reinstated mask mandates since Pratt’s ruling. Amid heavy push-back from anti-mask mandate advocates, this is a courageous vote for school board members to make. However, this should only be one of several precautions schools have.
In the Iowa City Community School District, junior high and high school students have the choice to quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19.
All unvaccinated students should be required to quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19. By allowing students the option, they are putting other students and faculty at risk of exposure. This will only further the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
In addition to firm protocols on quarantine for exposed students, schools should offer and promote weekly COVID-19 tests for students and faculty.
Until Iowa and the rest of the country reaches herd immunity, we must take all precautions to keep Iowans, especially those in school safe. To some, continuing COVID-19 protocols in schools may still seem extreme. However, even if being overly cautious can prevent a single COVID-19 fatality, it should be well worth it.
Though some are still skeptical about masks and even the COVID-19 vaccine, we should all take selfless actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If one day we learn masks and vaccines did absolutely nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 — which completely contradicts current data — no one will regret doing too much to potentially save the life of another.
Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.