Selfish and stubborn people who protest life-saving vaccines and sensible mask mandates are causing the coronavirus pandemic to linger.

Their behavior hurts the most vulnerable among us, including children who are too young to be vaccinated.

These folks who claim their civil rights are more important than their neighbors’ lives, or perhaps even their own health and that of their children, burden weary health care providers. And, they make it hard on our educators who only want school life to get back to some kind of normal.

When students are safe and enjoy a regular routine that carries over to many other aspects of American life.

Now, I know Walton County schools remain open and implement COVID safety measures just short of a mask mandate. And I’m happy for local schools to continue to provide students a safe environment and meaningful learning experience. Kids need to be in school. They missed out on too much these past two school years.

Therefore, prevention is key. I have no problem with either a mask mandate or a vaccine requirement for all eligible adults and children old enough to get a vaccine.

My children had to show proof of inoculations for illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella to attend school. When they attended college they were required to be vaccinated for meningitis.

Why is COVID-19 any different?

I also want to point out the pandemic has affected teachers’ mental health, not to mention risking their physical health. Educators from across the nation and our region have died from COVID.

And, yes, there are breakthrough cases of COVID in fully vaccinated individuals. My friend Orli works in education in north Georgia and believes she contracted COVID the first week school was in session. That district does not have a mask mandate. Fortunately, Orli counts herself lucky she didn’t get sick enough to require hospitalization. She believes she recovered because she took the vaccine.

These educators are dedicated to their students. Think about how they have had to adapt. Some schools have gone back to virtual learning, like the south Georgia school district where my sister-in-law and niece teach. Some school systems are back to hybrid models, so teachers have to teach both online and in person. It’s tough. I wouldn’t want that kind of job stress.

A lot of teachers, like my daughter who teaches in coastal Alabama, constantly sanitize their classrooms and materials. Rachel tells me this takes up much of the precious little prep time she has before every class.

Some schools, like the one my son-in-law teaches in, still have the cafeteria closed at lunch. Students eat in their homerooms with their teachers. Again, more stress on teachers who get few breaks as it is.

The CDC Foundation conducted a study this past May on the mental health impact of COVID on teachers who teach students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The study found that 27% of teachers self reported symptoms consistent with clinical depression and 37% self-reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety. The study also showed 53% of American teachers were considering leaving the profession more now than they were before the pandemic started in February 2020.

If the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers consider themselves patriots, why then do they not support hardworking and underpaid American educators? Do they not care about the health risks to their own children?

I was taught that being a patriot means doing what must be done for the good of the whole community. It’s one thing to criticize your government. It’s another to blatantly disregard your role as a responsible member of society.

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