News-Miner opinion: Push has come to shove. With the 2021-2022 academic year barely underway, public schools in Fairbanks, mirroring school districts across Alaska, are reporting a surge in Covid-19 numbers.
It is easy to understand how the virus is contracted, taken to school, where it infects kids, and then is taken home to families. What is not so easy is deciding what to do about it in a political maelstrom?
The primary question is: With the case count rising exponentially across the state on a daily basis, how can we keep kids safe — and going to school? Nobody wants them involved in long-distance learning if it is not absolutely necessary. Teachers, experts and common sense agree that kids learn better in the classroom.
What about mandates and lockdowns and closures? Nobody wants them. They disrupt our lives and crush the economy. What about masks in schools? The science is all over the map, and many who have turned their use into a heated political question would rather fight about them than use them.
Vaccinations? They show real promise, but only about 52% of Fairbanks North Star Borough residents have yet received at least one dose on the vaccination. Only 35% of those living in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area have received at least one dose.
Despite rumbles in some quarters and until something better shows up, a combination of masks and vaccinations, along with social distancing, may be the best — if not only — weapons we have to fight the virus and keep kids heading into classrooms.
While much is yet unknown about the limited tools available for combating the ever-evolving virus, this much is fairly certain: Masks and vaccinations do not make the problem worse and, it could be argued, they make our kids and families safer.
The use of masks — even by children in school and those who are already vaccinated — and getting everybody eligible fully vaccinated may be the necessary evil we must endure to keep our children in the classroom.
Or, we could do nothing and face school closures, mandates, lockdowns and economic upheaval surely to come if the Delta variant of the virus is not stopped.
Push has come to shove. It is time to choose.