Politics at the local, state, and national levels seems to have lost sight of the common good and become a competitive sport. At a recent PENNCREST School Board meeting, discussion focused on whether to join a lawsuit against a state mask mandate for public schools. Comments reported in the Tribune article focused on control, authority and constitutional rights, with barely a word about the safety of children. Not surprisingly, the next day’s paper reported the closure of a school in that district due to a COVID outbreak.

In Republican-controlled states, governors are banning local mask mandates, while hospitals in many of those same states are filled to capacity from the latest surge in the virus. Again, not surprisingly, President Joe Biden imposed vaccination mandates after eight months of encouraging and cajoling people to get vaccinated. Republicans responded with cries of government overreach.

Allowing for personal choice and responsibility has not worked, as millions of people disregard both science and how their individual actions impact others. When mask mandates were dropped, the number of infections increased, and Crawford County is now reporting up to 70 new cases a day, comparable to numbers before the vaccine was widely available.

Rather than address this increase in substantive ways, PENNCREST School Board members demand local control in the face of state mandates, while other state governments curtail local control, all in defiance of clear and consistent advice from public health experts. Sadly, students will be the losers, by having to return to online learning, missing out on athletic involvement, or even worse, contracting COVID. Their health and wellbeing should not fall victim to political power games.

Jane Ellen Nickell


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