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Investing in the future: Protecting our children
Jeffrey R. Lewis

This last year and a half has been unlike any other 18-month segment in American history. The largest global pandemic in a century turned the United States into a veritable ghost town.

Hospitals, sadly, remained fully operational as intensive care units overflowed with COVID-19 patients, putting a strain on the nation's healthcare system. The heroic sacrifice of our frontline medical personnel will never be forgotten.

The fight against the pandemic was, and remains, a war. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not surrendered. The new Delta variant of the virus is lurking and is 75 percent more contagious. Today, the Delta variant accounts for 58 percent of all U.S. infections.

As a result, hospitals are seeing more and more children infected with COVID. And, according to Dr. Alan Jones at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, they are "seeing more symptomatic children and children seem to spread the disease to each other much more readily."

Now is not the time to become complacent.

Despite CDC guidance that says masks are no longer required, California has opted to go in the opposite direction and will require masks to be worn by all students and staff when they return to school in the fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics followed suit on July 19, urging that all eligible students be vaccinated and that all students wear masks regardless of vaccination status. The reasoning is simple. Children ages 12 and under, who make up nearly 60-percent of all school-age children, cannot yet be vaccinated. Therefore, safety precautions must be implemented.

However, not all classrooms are created equal, and not every school can easily adhere to distance guidelines. With that in mind, and in the pursuit of fairness, the California Department of Public Health implemented the mask mandate. Otherwise, elementary schools could become ground zero for a new surge. This is probably why Los Angeles County took things a step further and issued an indoor mask mandate for all citizens beginning July 17. Stanislaus County, the second-to-last county in the state to escape the most restrictive Coronavirus tier last month, would be wise to consider similar measures.

We are all fed up with wearing masks, and there is probably no group more tired of wearing masks than our school children, but it is worth remembering that global events have dictated the course of action for an entire generation at different times in our nation's history. For example, many young men and women put their hopes and dreams on hold to enter the service of our country during World War II, never to return home. Those selfless souls, known fondly as "the greatest generation," put their lives on the line during a global conflict.

The coronavirus and the Delta variant are this generation's flashpoints. This generation is being called to put on a mask to help battle a global pandemic, to help keep others safe – and alive. Wearing a mask is a sacrifice of convenience and comfort, though it is not on par with the sacrifice others made in keeping this country safe from unimaginable evil.

The Delta variant is more contagious and spreading rapidly. As a result, it is time to protect all children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 4 million children have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S.

As parents, we need to continue protecting our children. And, as citizens, this is our duty.

— Jeffrey L. Lewis is President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock, Calif.