Connect with us

U.S.

Parents Resort to Extreme Tactics in Ongoing School Masking Debates

Published

on

State-level bans on mask mandates and school districts’ decisions to ignore them have both drawn fire from parents.


Escalating Battles Over Masking 

The fight over mask mandates in schools has continued to escalate in recent weeks, driving some parents to violence and others to unusual methods of protest.

On Wednesday, the father of a high school student in Florida was arrested and charged with child abuse after allegedly pushing a student over a masking dispute.

According to NBC News, the man, Dan Bauman, was recording his own daughter entering the school without a mask when another girl tried to grab his phone. Bauman reportedly pushed the girl into a fence and twisted her arm “in an aggressive manner” before a school resource officer and a security guard pulled him off her.

Elsewhere in Texas, Tom Leonard, the superintendent of Eanes Independent School District, wrote in a letter to parents and staff last week detailing “a few sad moments” in the first week of the school year.

In one instance outlined by Leonard, a parent in the district assaulted a teacher by tearing off her face mask while other parents yelled at a different teacher.

On the opposite side of the debate, a dad in Texas stripped down to his underwear during a school board meeting Monday to argue that face-coverings in schools are necessary after the Dripping Springs Independent School District announced that masking would be optional.

“At work, they make me wear this jacket. I hate it. They make me wear this shirt and tie. I hate it,” the parent, James Akers, said while taking off the items of clothing. 

Akers continued, amid cheers from the audience, arguing that people have to obey rules they may not like, like traffic laws and dress codes, but such policies are necessary for the safety and protection of society.

“It’s simple protocol, people,” he said while standing in his underwear as guards came to escort him away. “We follow certain rules for a very good reason.” 

A Spotlight on Florida and Texas

While other extreme examples in the school mask debate have been documented in other states, Florida and Texas have received the most national attention for the mandate bans imposed by their governors.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has repeatedly threatened schools that disobey his executive order prohibiting mask requirements with funding cuts and other sanctions regardless of the legal questions over his authority to do so.

Despite those threats, several of Florida’s largest school districts have decided to buck the governor as the state continues to report the nation’s highest hospitalization rate and second-highest new caseloads. 

As of Tuesday, the majority of public school students in the state are now being required to wear masks after two additional school districts approved mandates.

Similar battles have taken place in Texas, where several judges have blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to prevent mask mandates in the state. 

On Wednesday, a state district judge issued a temporary injunction against Abbott’s ban, ruling it cannot be enforced in Dallas County on the grounds that it impedes the ability of local officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

However, on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the ban could stay in place while the legal proceedings played out.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

U.S.

Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

Published

on

The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

Published

on

In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

Continue Reading

U.S.

COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

Published

on

While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading