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In the least surprising outcome of the young school season, the Kittitas School District is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak — 18 cases among staff and students according to the Kittitas County Health Department.

The outbreak was the logical outcome of the district’s position that it would acknowledge the mask mandate, but not police it.

What that meant was that if a student showed up for school without a mask, the child would be given a mask but that child would not be forced to wear a mask or sent home, or sent to the nurse’s office or told not to come to school the next day without a mask.

Everything would be on a “case by case” basis.

In a remarkable exchange of letters last week, the Kittitas County Health Department informed the district its had an uncontrolled outbreak of COVID in its schools and the district would be recommending that schools be shut down for 14 days.

The Kittitas School Board held an emergency meeting on Friday and the board agreed to strict enforcement of the mask ordinance and the health department agreed to allow schools to remain open.

When the school board and district leadership embarked on this course of action (acknowledge but not police), where did they think it would lead? The obvious outcomes would be a COVID outbreak, school closures and lose of state funding. That was their predetermined destination. Reading the letters on the district’s website, it is clear the district still sees itself as the victim, referencing the Kittitas County Health Department “threatening to close our schools.” A more accurate statements would be the Kittitas County Health Department fulfilling its obligation to protect the health of children, staff and surrounding community.

This is an excellent example of how COVID does not care about individual ideologies, feelings, beliefs, strongly held concepts of personal freedoms or survey results. It’s a virus. It spreads. If you don’t take measures to prevent the spread, it spreads even faster.

Kittitas sent a survey to parents about COVID and mask mandates. Why? No survey is going to alter the course of COVID. The fact is no one wants to wear a mask — not adults, not kids. This is not about wanting. It’s about being responsible for your health and how you impact the health of those around you.

Even if the Kittitas School Board has documented evidence via the survey, that the majority of Kittitas parents felt the mask mandate was an infringement on their child’s civil rights, it would not matter to the virus. If the district’s intention is to protect the health and welfare of students, it takes actions to protect the health and welfare of students. Unless you fold the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag into a mask, it’s not going to help you.

Think of it this way, few of us have a deep understanding or grasp of the laws of physics. But it doesn’t matter. They still apply. Whether you know what they are or believe in them, they shape our universe. Your vote in the next election, your yard sign, your T-shirt, your applause, your boos, your violent outbursts, none of them will alter the laws of physics. You can either be comforted by that or frustrated, your choice , but either way it won’t matter to the laws of physics.

Viruses do what viruses do. What is left to us is to decide whether we behave in a manner to protect ourselves. The virus does not stop being a virus because we think it is actually a conspiracy theory. Nope, it doesn’t care.

We can care, though, and act as if we care about each other. That’s the pathway out of this.

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