‘To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

– 1 Corinthians 6:7

Merry Christmas, Searcy School Board, from COVID-19, the gift that keeps on giving.

The coronavirus may not be entirely to blame for the School Board and superintendent being sued, but the school district wouldn’t have reinstated its mask mandate for this week if cases had not spiked “above the designated levels,” leading to the lawsuit. For some, masks and vaccinations are worse than getting coal in your stocking.

As you know if you’ve read this column over the past couple of years, I have strongly supported wearing masks as a COVID preventative, as has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health officials since the pandemic started last year. (However, I am not strongly in support of governing bodies requiring them or vaccinations.)

If God mandated both covering the mouth and social distancing in Leviticus to prevent the spread of infectious disease, then that’s reason enough for me to believe that masks are effective. Yes, He doesn’t say that everyone should wear a face covering, just those who are infected, but I also feel convicted by Philippians 2:3, which tells us to “count others more significant than ourselves.”

Since we often do not know that we have COVID-19 before we are infectious, it has been important to me to try to do everything I can to prevent giving it to others, especially those who are more at risk of dying because of it. Putting a piece of fabric over my mouth and nose is a minor inconvenience if it keeps someone from suffering a horrible, suffocating death.

The CDC lists study after study that have been done since the outbreak started showing that masks help reduce the transmission of COVID, including one concerning an outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in which the “use of a face covering on-board was associated with a 70 percent reduced risk of infection.”

Concerning schools, from July 15–Aug. 31, “when delta was the predominant strain circulating in the U.S., about one in five K–12 public non-charter schools open for in-person learning in Maricopa and Pima counties, Ariz., experienced a school-associated outbreak. Outbreaks were 3.5 times more likely ... in schools without mask mandates.”

From a personal standpoint, my wife and I have worn our masks in most settings (although not as much when cases were lower) and have not gotten the virus, even when we’ve been in close contact with others who tested positive for it. Our daughter also has been fastidious about wearing her mask and has not gotten COVID despite being in a college environment.

Yes, we’ve also all been vaccinated (with my wife and daughter both receiving a booster as well); however, we’ve seen that the vaccine doesn’t completely keep you from getting the virus, just mainly from a bad outcome. We’ve also socially distanced as much as possible. But there are reasons to believe that the masks have helped us keep COVID at bay and, more importantly, keep from spreading it to the most vulnerable members of our family and friends.

While there may be other factors involved, and there are others who do not wear masks who have not caught COVID (or those who do who have), the choice and evidence for us seems clear. For some Americans, though, freedoms and rights are valued above anything else, and there is admittedly some danger in the government infringing on them.

The Searcy School Board decided at the beginning of the school year to enact a mandate after a circuit judge blocked a mask ban passed by the Arkansas Legislature. It later made masks optional when the number of virus cases decreased before putting the requirement back in place before this final week of school heading into the holiday break.

There’s no reason to believe the superintendent and board members haven’t tried to do what they believe is best, both to stop the spread of the virus and to avoid unnecessary quarantining. But it’s also no surprise that a lawsuit is the early Christmas present they received for doing it. In fact, it’s more of a surprise that they weren’t sued before now.

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