EDITORIAL: Here we are

OUR LONG SUMMER VACATION has finally ended. We took last week off, hoping (I was, anyway) that readers wouldn’t notice or would accept our “Double Issue” as proof we’re still around. That issue was larger than usual by four whole pages, and came out August 19 but carried both that date and August 26. Did you miss us? Some folks did.

We advertised our summer “break” for the two weeks prior to the Double Issue. It wasn’t enough advance notice. Next year we’ll start earlier with the summer break alert ads. Our voicemail was filled when the office reopened this week and that means some of you had a double frustration: not only did you not receive your paper, you also couldn’t tell us it was missing. For that, I apologize.

But the readers I spoke with since we returned weren’t angry. It sounded to me like you were relieved to learn that you didn’t get a paper because there wasn’t a paper to get. Nobody faulted us for taking a break.

All of us at the paper thank you for your interest and support. And, um, this might be a good time to remind you that we expect we’ll need another break sometime around December 30.

Why masks matter

PARENTS DO THE BEST THEY CAN to protect their kids. What parent wouldn’t restrain a child from running into traffic on a busy street? But the instinct to protect isn’t flawless. Consider overprotective parents.

We’ve heard from a few of them recently when it comes to wearing masks at school. These parents have embraced theories that assure them face masks do not protect kids from exposure to Covid-19; some parents also believe masks pose a threat to the health of the children who wear them. Both theories are factually incorrect. Both put children at risk.

The evidence shows masks that cover mouth and nose reduce the chance of exposure to the Covid-19 virus. Masks also prevent your child from passing the virus to other children even when your child may show no symptoms.

What doesn’t count as “evidence”? If you’re a parent worried about your kids’ masks and you base your concerns on something you saw on social media, do you really want to trust social media to guide your choices about the health of your children?

The parents who hold anti-mask beliefs have been showing up at school board meetings around the country, but let’s keep the focus local. Schools here open next week and these misinformed parents don’t want their children to wear masks at school.

No matter how passionately this small group of parents plead their no-mask case, they’re not likely to get any school board in the county to go along with them. That’s because the very first action Governor Kathy Hochul took after being sworn in last week was to have the state Department of Health issue a mandate that all students and adults in all public schools must wear masks. That was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Her action will save lives.

We have a long road ahead before the combination of vaccinations, masks, distancing and personal hygiene tame this pandemic. There is not yet a vaccine approved for children under the age of 12, people in much of the rest of the world have no access to the vaccine, and too many adults—young and old—fail to understand that taking steps to fight Covid-19 like getting vaccinated and using a mask indoors help protect the country, not just the individual.

The virus is real and it lives here now. Columbia County had 23 new cases of Covid-19 last Thursday alone. It’s frightening. Parents, of course you need to protect your children but you can’t do it alone. Science is your best ally. Social media disinformation is the pandemic’s best friend.

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