Rekha Basu: Iowa mom can both work or defend her immunocompromised youngster, due to mask-mandate legislation | Commentary

Brianne Magel, a divorced mother of two in Des Moines, Iowa, is faced with a hobson choice between protecting the health of her young daughter and earning an income to support the family.

Seven-year-old Eleanor has Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a rare genetic connective tissue disease that weakens her immune system. In 2019 she had an expected open heart surgery.

“If she got COVID, it would threaten her life,” says Magel.

However, there is no obligation that other children or employees of your Perkins Elementary School or any Des Moines school be vaccinated or wear masks. All school districts, cities, and counties are not allowed to require either, under the laws the governor signed in May. So by going to school, Eleanor would be vulnerable to exposure to the coronavirus every day.

Given the more contagious Delta variant, your doctor has warned against going back to school now. “Your cardiologist here said if there was a mask requirement it would be safe, but if I can keep them at home I should,” said Magel.

Schools will reopen this month for half a million Iowa children. On August 16, just over a quarter of 12 to 15 year olds were vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are not yet entitled to vaccinations. However, at least 81 children died of COVID-19 in the United States between March and July, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year Eleanor and her 4 year old brother stayed home and Magel stayed with them. To do this, she had to put her part-time job as director of the children’s church choir on hold and depending on what her father Tom describes as “the starvation wages and maintenance she gets”.

“This decision has had a drastic impact on their lives,” he said of his daughter.

Eleanor flourished at home last year by completing virtual schools where she could interact with her teachers and peers, her mom says. But the Edgenuity self-directed online learning program offered this year by Des Moines Schools under a contract with a for-profit company doesn’t offer that. According to a Register story, “Edgenuity’s curriculum differs from the virtual campus in that most students have no teachers available. A teacher monitors the grades of the students. “

Des Moines headmaster Tom Ahart said he doesn’t think a virtual option is in the best interests of elementary school students. Brianne Magel signed up Eleanor for this despite concerns that there will be no interaction with teachers or peers. So she and a friend whose son is returning home from Greenwood Elementary School with heart disease are doing their best to connect their children through Zoom. Her own son will attend preschool at her Plymouth church, where masking is required.

“It’s so unfair,” said Magel, who says she emailed Governor Kim Reynolds daily for a while but only got prepackaged replies. She has also communicated her concerns to her state legislators.

“It’s going to be another year of tough budgeting and cutting corners where I can,” she said.

For a while, it was thought that school-aged children are not very susceptible to COVID-19, or that if they get it, they have mild cases. But that has changed as the numbers have skyrocketed.

“When the pandemic first broke out, this was the top-down message we got that COVID does not affect children,” said Dr. Joel Waddell, a pediatric infectious disease specialist for UnityPoint Health Iowa Public Radio. “And we now know that that’s just not the case. We know that children can be badly affected by the virus. And on top of that, they are badly affected by the pandemic itself.”

About 500 most recent positive test results in Iowa were from children under the age of 18, according to a breakdown of the state government’s seven-day positivity rate. This is based on the fact that children account for 11% of the 4,800 positive cases.

One of 11,352 petitions signed by condemns the law banning school mandates, calls it unscientific, and warns Reynolds, “We will not forget this careless disregard for public health at the ballot box.”

It is said that Iowa Schools have approximately 750,000 school children aged 17 and under and that the state is still very susceptible to COVID-19 with only 45% of Iower fully vaccinated.

But an earlier petition, before Reynolds signed the Bill against Mandates, had 8,165 people asking them to “expose Iowa’s schoolchildren”.

It is difficult to understand how parents of all people can be so relaxed about potential risks for children and express unscientific opinions. But petitions like this fit a political agenda pursued by Republican lawmakers of Iowa.

What happened to the Republican Party, which used to believe in local control and based its rhetoric on saving babies? Why does it draw the line when children who are at risk of health really need to be protected?

If not repealed, this law will harm life in countless ways, not least by crippling the breadwinner. Legislators should admit it was wrong and reject it.


(Rekha Basu is a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Readers can email their mail to [email protected].)

© 2021 Des Moines registration. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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