Let’s wear masks again, Fort Worth. Flatten this COVID spike, and keep kids in school.

·3 min read

Masks are back, and there’s one very important reason.

We want children and teachers in school, safe and working hard. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

To help keep our kids and their teachers protected from COVID-19, we all need to wear masks again for a while, even if we’re vaccinated.

Let’s make a deal:

For the next few weeks, wear a mask indoors in public settings, or anywhere crowded. Have children wear theirs.

Let’s get school started.

If the spike from the potent Delta variant subsides, then everyone who’s vaccinated might be able to let up.

For now, we all need masks, including kids starting at age 2. This follows guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois-based American Academy of Pediatrics.

That new advice from the CDC came as a surprise. But it was no surprise that COVID-19 is hitting Tarrant County hardest in the North Texas region.

National newscasts have focused on Arkansas’ 1,000-plus acute COVID-19 hospital patients in that whole state. It’s being called a crisis.

But Tarrant County alone has more than 500 hospital patients with COVID-19, the most in a region with more total cases than Arkansas.

Maryjane Angel reads during a summer program to fight the “COVID slide” for young students at the United Community Centers (UCC) Polytechnic Center on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Fort Worth.
Maryjane Angel reads during a summer program to fight the “COVID slide” for young students at the United Community Centers (UCC) Polytechnic Center on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Fort Worth.

With only about half our residents vaccinated — worse than in Dallas County — Tarrant County and city government, civic and faith leaders must take extra steps to protect both the at-risk and children too young to be vaccinated.

Instead, County Judge Glen Whitley of Hurst and the Tarrant County commissioners spent time at their July 27 meeting complaining about what they can’t do.

“We can’t do anything about masks, and we can’t do anything about gatherings,” Whitley said, lamenting limits ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Maybe they can.

On the same day, San Antonio and Bexar County city, county and health officials held a rally urging residents to wear masks indoors.

“I don’t think we can say it in strong enough words what a dangerous situation we’re in,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

But Whitley only said, “We’ve got no tools.”

Abbott has taken away city and county officials’ last courtroom move. Until his latest order, if the pandemic worsened, they could have limited building and event occupancy to 50 percent.

Now, the rules — and lack of — are decisions solely up to governor.

He should reconsider. County, city and school officials need the authority to make local decisions with the guidance of local elected leaders.

But every moment spent second-guessing Abbott is a moment that should have been spent promoting vaccines, masks and distancing.

New Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker posted her first Facebook video Thursday, saying getting kids back in school is her “number one priority.” She encouraged residents with doubts about vaccines to ask their personal doctors and loved ones.

New Arlington Mayor Jim Ross and school board Presidents Tobi Jackson of Fort Worth and Kecia Mays of Arlington should be out front, too, encouraging civic and faith leaders to have everyone wear masks and avoid crowds, and get vaccinated when they can.

It was heartening last week to see more residents and business employees voluntarily wearing masks again. That may not be as confrontational now, with conservative leaders supporting vaccines and Abbott saying the vaccines are “safe, effective and your best defense against the virus.”

We know the current vaccines are working well. But they are not perfect, and we don’t know exactly how long they will be effective.

Better have everybody stay out of crowds and wear a mask.

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