It's the absolute wrong time for NC schools to lift mask mandates

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 300 words or fewer to opinion@newsobserver.com.

Reinstate school mask mandates

Regarding “Do the ‘rewards outweigh the risks’? More NC schools are dropping face mask mandate,” (Nov. 25):

At least 39 out of 115 school districts in North Carolina have made masks at school optional, according to the N.C. School Boards Association database. For many, the switch took effect after Thanksgiving break.

However, only 6% of counties in the state have COVID transmission rates that are low to moderate. In fact, the article states, “All 39 mask-optional districts are in counties with high or severe COVID community transmission rates.”

Why then are so many North Carolina schools dropping mask mandates now? Because parents are complaining? Because they are sick and tired of COVID and masks? Certainly not because they care about keeping students and communities safe.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services still suggests masks to be mandatory inside schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their latest Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report, wrote “This week nearly 142,000 child cases were added, an increase of about 32% from two weeks ago. …For the 15th week in a row child COVID-19 cases are above 100,000..”

These numbers are moving upwards.

The Children’s Hospital Association is also in agreement that cases of COVID-19 in children are at extremely high levels. Now is not the time to drop masks.

Children ages 5 and up just became eligible to get vaccinated. Those who elected to get the vaccine when it became available in mid-November haven’t reached full immunity.

Without a COVID-19 vaccination, masks are a child’s only protection against the virus. School boards need to listen to the experts and drop mask mandates only when numbers show that it is safe to do so.

So far, 779,293 Americans have died of COVID-19. Do the “rewards outweigh the risks”? No.

Will Lester, Cornelius

Cooper must veto this anti-voter bill

Every eligible voter in North Carolina should have the opportunity to vote and have their ballot counted — including North Carolinians who find themselves unexpectedly ill, or who have to travel last-minute for work.

Unfortunately, the N.C. General Assembly has once again decided to create barriers to voting by reinstating restrictive ballot delivery deadlines that they themselves voted to expand 12 years ago.

A bill recently passed by the N.C. legislature shortens the delivery time absentee ballots can be received and counted. Absentee ballots sent on time should be counted, even when the U.S. mail is running slower than we would like.

If Senate Bill 326 had been in effect in 2020, 11,000 ballots would have been tossed out. People argue that they have not heard of someone’s vote not being counted, but this would certainly be the case if these ballots were thrown out.

Shortening the allowed delivery will cause massive confusion among voters accustomed to the 3-day delivery grace period. It removes the grace period voters have grown accustomed to. What once provided a sense of relief to those with last-minute emergencies, could now become an added stress.

If SB 326 is allowed to stand, voters can no longer feel confident that their ballot will arrive in time even when they complete and deliver it to the post office on Election Day.

The pandemic is not over. We continue to see delays in mail service. These delays should not prevent North Carolinians from having their vote counted.

Limiting mail-in ballots is another attempt to rewrite the 2020 election and discount the more than 1 million N.C. voters who used this option.

Absentee voting is a choice for busy North Carolinians who value the flexibility it affords. More importantly, it has served as a fail-safe protection for voters who have last-minute family emergencies or illness.

Unfortunately, this option is being whittled away by our legislature. Life is full of surprises. Having your ballot thrown out should not be one of them. We call on Gov. Roy Cooper to veto SB326.

Cheryl Tung

President, League of Women Voters of Wake County

Gerald D. Givens Jr.

President, NAACP of Raleigh-Apex

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