We’ve all seen the contrasting images and memes. First, that of a well socially-distanced mother at a middle school football game being arrested for not wearing a mask. Her plight, juxtaposed against the photos of Dr. Fauci and his wife sitting unmasked at Nationals Park, unmolested by either law enforcement or Rent-A-COVID-Cop. Despite the fact that virtually every state or municipal mask order allows for exemptions for persons who might have legitimate health reasons for not wearing them, the videos of unmasked persons being harassed or refused service are manifest.
We’ve also watched governors and mayors giving their weekly COVID-19 updates, removing their masks when they take the podium and putting them back on when their medical advisor takes their place to answer questions. On and off, on and off, on and off. Hilarious, when you consider that the two of them just had lunch together before the press conference — mask free — because as we all know, the virus magically ceases to spread while they’re eating and drinking.
Yesterday, I was quite amused during the press conference given by North Carolina’s Governor Cooper, as he and his advisor, Dr. Mandy Cohen, switched places during the Q&A portion of their presentation. Each time Cooper would take the podium, he’d remove his mask and place it on the lectern. When the question was aimed at Dr. Cohen, Cooper would put his mask back on, as Cohen made her way to the lectern . . . where she’d remove her mask . . . and then place it in the exact same spot where Cooper had previously laid his own potentially #CommieVirus-contaminated face covering.
On and off, on and off, on and off . . . in a medically useless game of Musical Mask Virtue Signaling. It’s an empty room, except for camera operators and other technicians. When not speaking, the governor puts back on his mask and retreats stage right, alone, to an empty corner. When he speaks, the mask comes off, as the medical advisor goes to the very same “mask required” timeout corner. Meanwhile — stage left, and equally-distanced from the timeout corner — the sign language interpreter is translating for the hearing impaired . . . with no face covering.
Why does the mask always come off when speaking? And what about the lady speaking with her hands?
That brings me to the impetus of this particular screed:
I was recently informed by the wife of one my dearest, four-decades long friends, of a mask controversy in which she’d recently become embroiled. She’s a foreign language teacher at a Tennessee middle school, and in the function of performing her instructional duties, she’d occasionally remove her mask. Being more-than-adequately distanced from her masked students while at the front of the classroom — and in the service of allowing her students to see properly formed mouth positions in learning for themselves to form and speak strange new vowels, syllables, and words — she’d occasionally and temporarily pull down her mask.
JUST LIKE a governor in a COVID press briefing, and especially JUST LIKE a sign language interpreter who mouths each word as a key part of their communication technique. (We’re told that 90% of all communication is “non-verbal.” Right?)
I’m sure you already know where this is going . . .
While there is no mask mandate in my friend’s particular Tennessee county, the school district itself imposed just such a requirement, with the exception and clarification that reads as follows:
“Teachers will have some discretion. They can have students remove their masks for short periods of time if the students can maintain social distance guidelines the entire time masks are off.”
Note — the exception gives teachers discretion over the students mask usage, but no specific discretion over themselves.
Consequently, a couple of nosey #KovidKarens in the hallway reported my friend’s “discretionary” use of her mask to the principal, who accused her of being “insubordinate” and “extremely selfish” for not wearing her mask throughout the entire school day. After a couple classroom visits by assistant principles — with no explanation given or accepted — she was immediately suspended, without pay, “pending investigation.” She was also forbidden to have any contact with other school employees or students, leaving 115 students without their Spanish teacher.
Interestingly, my friend and his family had only recently moved to Tennessee from the Los Angeles, CA area . . . for all the reasons anyone of sound and liberty-yearning mind would leave California. Being an executive in the music industry, he’d been able to successfully relocate to the Nashville area and maintain a working relationship with his primary contractor. They’d also purposefully chosen what was ostensibly the most conservative county near Nashville to set up their new life. But, we know a “conservative” county and its “public school” administrators are not necessarily on the same political wavelength.
A few days after her suspension she received notice that she needed to come to the school district’s Central Office for a meeting, and, she’d need to wear a mask. (Of course.) She replied that she was unavailable to attend and suggested a Zoom meeting, instead. She received a matter-of-fact note that she was “required” to be there at the specified time. She did not go. The district then made one more demand for an in-person meeting, under the threat that if she did not attend it would be deemed “job abandonment.” After some back-and-forth on scheduling she did agree to a meeting at the district HQ. Upon arrival, she was denied entrance into the building . . . because . . . YES, god bless her . . . she refused to wear a mask into the building!
She quickly emailed HR, telling them that she was outside the building, gave them the name of the security officer refusing her entry, and then told them she’d wait no longer than 10 minutes for them to resolve the problem. Two HR representatives came outside to where she waited, and asked her to explain her side of what had taken place at the school. She simply replied, “I wish not to comment at this time.” They tried a couple different approaches to get her to share her version of events, but she gave them the same response each time. Since that short meeting, she’s not heard anything back from the school district. She assumes her suspension is now a dismissal.
(I assume there will be a lawsuit. At least I hope so. I haven’t asked.)
Is there any need for me to again point out the obvious:
-If any of those middle schoolers are in an at-risk health category, or have parents at-risk, they need to be home, remote learning. The rest of those in that age group are 36 times more likely to be killed in transit, to or from school, than they are to die from COVID-19.
-If any teacher is at-risk, or has at-risk family, they need to be teaching remotely. (We have the technology.) My friend is 50 years old. According to the CDC, her survivability rate is in excess of 99.5%. She’s old enough and wise enough to make her own risk assessment, and behave accordingly.
Common sense. This isn’t hard.
Since those events of last week — in the most delicious piece of well-timed irony — just three days ago, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee posted a photo on his Facebook page of himself (above) teaching a Civics class at Anderson County High School . . . sans mask! You can only imagine the comment thread — in which he is being attacked from all sides — both for his “poor example,” by the #KovidKarens, and from those on the other side pointing out his “elitist hypocrisy.”
(I hope my friend sends a copy of that photograph to her school district’s superintendent . . . along with accompanying notice to sue. <hint, hint>)
Back to my own governor, #CoronaGruppenfuhrerCooper. In this week’s COVID press briefing, he informed all of us that his mandatory mask order would remain in effect, “Until we have a vaccine or a reliable cure.”
I will not comply. I know my friend will not comply.
Post Script: After typing out the initial draft of this blog, yesterday, I had to stage manage a “drive-in concert” at one of our regional drive-in movie theaters. Upon the arrival of the first band member, he and his wife got out of their vehicle and immediately donned their masks. There was absolutely no one else around under the crystal clear Carolina blue sky. No one else. Just the three of us, at the stage, at an outdoor facility large enough to hold over 300 cars.
I casually made mention that there was no mask requirement, outside at this venue, or under the circumstances of the event. The band member’s wife spun around in my direction and angrily said, “Then you’d better stay at least six feet away from us!”
She was wearing an n95 mask, so I just assumed she might have some underlying condition warranting her concern, (if not her attitude). Minutes later, I watched as she wandered off into the distance, alone, removed her mask, and lit a cigarette. <smdh>
I never bothered to point out to her the fact that COVID-19 hasn’t reduced the average life expectancy of the American population . . . but, those cigarettes . . . Ummmm.