When it became obvious that the Titanic was not going to survive its tragic collision with the iceberg in the North Atlantic, those in positions of authority started to do the human triage necessary in emergencies. Who would be saved, who would perish, and who would be empowered with those impossible decisions?
Ultimately, it came down to the formula used from the beginning of civil society: Women and children first.
Until now, in the COVID era.
I’ve watched with horror as we closed down the schools without any notice. An argument can be made that at the beginning of the pandemic when we had few facts about what this beast was, and how it was transmitted, it made sense to stop the clocks and lock the doors. Fear and ignorance warranted drastic measures.
Then, as we began to see the horrific impact of virtual schooling on young children, we started opening up the classrooms. Some were more courageous, like many private and Catholic schools across the country. They either understood more quickly than the others exactly how much damage was being done to these kids, or they were more motivated to mitigate the damage as soon as they discovered it.
But even when the schools opened, they forced the children to wear masks, even when studies showed that transmission in academic settings was minimal. A widely-cited article in The Atlantic by David Zweig pointed out the flawed methodology used to argue that schools that had mask mandates had fewer cases of COVID than those without. It’s wrong, and the CDC keeps citing this baseless study for its mask crusade.
This was before omicron, which is a monster on steroids and can be passed as easily as the common cold. Now it might be prudent to use masks if we can actually establish they stop the spread of omicron, but that Atlantic article and voluminous anecdotal evidence prove that at least with the alpha and delta versions of the virus, that simply isn’t the case. And even when there are cases in the school setting, they don’t impact the young to anywhere near the same degree as adults.
The fact that we are now debating whether children should be vaccinated is much more troubling than hermetically sealing them in useless pieces of cloth and paper. Vaccines, we were told, prevented you from getting the virus. That turned out not to be true. Vaccines, we were told, prevented you from transmitting the virus. That also turned out not to be true. And while there is legitimate, substantial evidence to prove that vaccines do minimize the severity of the illness, that’s not enough to mandate vaccines for kids. Not even close.
According to the most recent federal data, less than 5,000 children nationwide have been hospitalized with COVID, and a much smaller number have been hospitalized specifically because of COVID. This is not the 100,000 kid apocalypse mentioned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her remarks from the bench last week in support of Biden’s vaccine mandate.
In reality, it’s the adults who are jumping into those lifeboats, trying desperately to save their own lives with very little concern for the health and safety of the children. They may talk the good talk about protecting the young ones, but the teachers who marched out of Chicago public schools earlier this month didn’t give a damn about their students. They were worried about themselves.
And guess what? It’s okay to admit that, as long as they admit that. But they don’t. These adults are trying to make it seem as if they are noble guardians of childhood, ensuring that their wide-eyed little charges are protected against the big bad GOP bogeymen.
But since the federal numbers show that kids aren’t filling up emergency rooms, and respected journalists like David Zweig are showing that masks really don’t have the salutary impact we’re promised, and the CDC admits that getting vaccinated protects you against the virus (or at least minimizes the harm) but does little or nothing to stop you from infecting someone else, why are we engaging in these debates to begin with?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because the mantra is no longer “women and children first.” It’s “jump into whatever boat you can find, the kids be damned.” It’s “ignore the mental anguish of isolated children so you can feel safe in your virtual bubble with your virtual lesson plans.” It’s “yap your lips on TV cable networks in front of adoring, gullible viewers, and tell them that they can virtue signal the virus into submission.”
And that works, as long as you don’t turn your heads to look back at the kids standing on the deck, as the ship sinks deeper into the dark water.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org