Straight Talk from Steve
July 22, 2020
It's time to reopen Nebraska's schools. Children need to learn, so it is time for them to go back to school next month. Gov. Ricketts agrees. On Friday he said we can reopen the schools and manage the coronavirus at the same time, and I agree.
Opening up the schools can be done safely. Matthew Blomstead, Nebraska's Education Commissioner, released a 25 page document last Friday explaining how we can open up our schools safely. The document includes recommendations to school districts for practicing social distancing, limiting class sizes, and using various kinds of barriers.
Besides academic learning, there are many other reasons for reopening our schools. Prolonged social isolation is not good for the mental health of children. We are social creatures, and schools provide children with plenty of opportunities for social interaction with their peers. Opening up the schools also means that our children will get a regular regimen of physical activity, and for some it may mean getting a nutritious meal to eat.
Wearing masks should be voluntary. Gov. Ricketts also said on Friday that he would not mandate the wearing of facial coverings. He also said that he would reject any effort by a local health department to require the wearing of face masks. Ricketts's decision aligns with policies of governors of several other states. For instance, Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, has refused to mandate the wearing of masks, calling it "a bridge too far." That is a good analogy!
Kristi Noem, the Governor of South Dakota, has also refused to mandate mask wearing for the people of her state. For Noem the issue of mask wearing is a matter of respect and trust. Noem's advice to other governors is to, "Trust your people," and "Don't lay down mandates that are going to hinder the ability that they need to really get through this difficult time." And I agree.
I believe that if we give people the facts, they can make intelligent decisions on their own about wearing a mask in public without being mandated statewide by the big brother of government. According to Nebraska's own COVID-19 Dashboard there are zero cases of the coronavirus in 26 counties in Nebraska, and another 16 counties have only one reported case of the virus. Mandating folks to wear face masks in counties with little or no cases of the coronavirus is not just intrusive, it is silly.