It’s time for blanket federal policies on masking for school students to end. While worthy of taking into consideration, national recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control should not be taken as gospel. The arbitrary guidelines handed down from the so-called experts do not reflect local tendencies and data. It’s time for local school systems to exercise their individual judgments based on community data. The good news is this appears to be happening. Thus far, it looks like far more school systems will require masks this fall than do not.
It should be up to each jurisdiction to decide based on what is happening with the data regarding cases and transmission. It’s why Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is getting it right allowing “local rule.” Last week Hogan told WBAL, “We’re not talking about reinstating a mask mandate.” Hogan doubled down last Friday on The Takeout podcast, saying, “Because we got so many people vaccinated, because kids have not been a big issue and hadn’t been a problem for us for the past year, I don’t think we have to require masks for kids.”
Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, went the opposite direction this week, requiring all public and private school students to wear face coverings when school bells start ringing again. “There’s no higher priority than getting all Delaware children back in their classrooms full-time this fall,” said Carney. “This consistent, statewide approach will help students, educators and staff return to school safely and without disruption. Vaccination remains the best way to finally put an end to this pandemic. …”
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, so far Wicomico and Kent counties will require masks for students until transmission levels fall. Most metropolitan counties on the western shore are requiring masks as expected. Allegany, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Dorchester, Washington and Somerset counties are recommending masks but not requiring. Based on its aggressive approach over the past 18 months, I would predict Worcester County will announce next week optional masking with a recommendation to mask for those non-vaccinated. It would be the appropriate play and be consistent with the summer school initiatives. It’s worth pointing out all bus riders will be required to wear masks per a federal rule.
Let’s face it folks: risk is a new part of life. As the situation currently stands on the shore and in Worcester County, we should have the choice on whether to mask. Simple observations of society confirm most people prefer not to mask. It’s evident just by looking around and observing community sensibilities. If most people thought wearing masks was needed to keep them safe, we would see more facial coverings in public. I think schools should be reflective of our society. This is about choice. Maryland is getting it right leaving it up to “local rule.” There’s no question to me the majority of Worcester County parents want their kids in school without masks next month.
For many years, the Berlin beat at this newspaper was not exciting. Today, an argument could be made it’s the most interesting to cover in our area.
Things changed in Berlin back in 2019 when the town council drastically increased taxes. In the years prior, there was some rancor in town politics, largely regarding funding of the Berlin Fire Company and a rift between fire company leadership and then-Mayor Gee Williams. Though it was a big deal for those directly involved, it was not until Williams proposed a 29% property tax increase two years ago when town residents started paying attention to what’s happening at Town Hall. The increase was eventually reduced to 18%, but it was largely cited as the reason why Williams was not re-elected in last fall’s election, which saw one of the largest turnouts in town history. Though it’s a shame it took all property owners having to give more money to the town for it to happen, a newfound passion has surfaced in town. It was seen in the last election when all open seats were contested and the candidates who ran clearly cared about the town.
Fast forward to this week, and we can clearly see a trend of division among elected officials. Though there is shallow talk about everyone getting along for the betterment of the town, it’s clear Mayor Zack Tyndall in his first year is ruffling his colleagues as well as town staff members. Though Tyndall and Williams have different personalities and backgrounds, both have shown an ability to handle criticism well. Though Williams would frequently sound off during meetings at residents who in his mind crossed the line with their criticism, the former mayor weathered a constant storm of accusations of misconduct over the major tax increases professionally. For his part, facing concerns over a dearth of communication this week with his colleagues about decisions and essentially being called untruthful by a staff member, Tyndall kept his composure in the face of opposition. He defended his position without losing his cool.
A major difference in the two tenures is the town council (aside from Tyndall who was a councilman) largely supported nearly every Williams initiative, including the major tax increase. Tyndall is facing a much tougher road with his colleagues and especially town staff, who continue to publicly show a distaste for his management.