The COVID-19 rules and regulations that TK-12 schools must follow often feel like a warped and ever-changing version of the childhood game: Simon Says. “Simon says to get a vaccine. Simon says to wear a mask. Simon says to wash your hands while singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Simon says to stand apart. Simon says you can stand together if you are wearing a mask. Now, take off your mask. Wait! Put your mask back on because Simon did not say to take off your mask.”
Now, pretend that Simon is Governor Newsom and that the latest command is not part of a game, but a new public health order, announced at a press conference on August 11, 2021 to take effect the next day on August 12, 2021.
Under the new public health order, California has become the first state to require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination from ALL public and private school employees – think teachers, custodians, principals, etc. – serving students from transitional kindergarten through Grade 12. Beginning October 15, 2021, those who are not vaccinated must submit to weekly COVID testing. (Note: the order does not apply to home schools, child care, or higher education.)
The California Department of Public Health’s new order uses peer pressure, discomfort, and convenience, to essentially coerce private and public-school employees into getting vaccinated. For instance:
- Peer pressure comes into play through the mask, a visible marker of one’s vaccination status, which should be protected under HIPAA. All TK-12 employee must wear a mask when indoors with children, but when indoors with adults, masks are only required for the unvaccinated. Sure, a vaccinated individual could opt to wear a mask, but in meetings, most do not. With numerous meetings – especially meetings about the ever-changing COVID requirements – it becomes very apparent who is vaccinated and who is not.
- Discomfort refers to the actual COVID test for the unvaccinated. I have personally had to submit to several nasal swab and saliva tests, and both were awkward and uncomfortable. The saliva test may seem like the better option, but it is not. The individual has to repeatedly spit – perhaps 10 to 20 times – and fill a small vile with saliva. The first time I took the saliva test, the technician handed the vile back to me and told me to produce more saliva because I had “too many bubbles.” Gross. And embarrassing. I was literally spit shamed.
- Finally, convenience eventually runs people down. How many weekly COVID tests can a person take before finally trading the swab or vile for the prick of a needle?
The rationale behind the public health order is partially due to the Delta variant. While I can see the reasoning here, I do not like that the California Department of Public Health is essentially forcing public and private school workers to get vaccinated. I am not against vaccines. In fact, I am thankful that my loved ones and I will not be crippled by polio or die from measles. Vaccines are nothing new to schools, and a variety of vaccinations are required before students start transitional or traditional kindergarten.
In fact, I even made the decision to get the COVID vaccine, which may be surprising given my position in this article. I chose the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it is not an mRNA vaccine and only requires a single dose. I will say, however, that a big part of my decision to get vaccinated was due to reasons such as: my position in a public school district; the desire to continue to work with students amidst ever-changing regulations; the majority of staff who are vaccinated; and the fact that I contracted COVID and unknowingly exposed my staff to the virus. No one asked me to get vaccinated, but I felt a very strong and unspoken pressure to get vaccinated.
And I am picky about what I put into my body. Very picky. Sometimes I wonder about individuals who tell me that they will not put the vaccine into their body, but they regularly fill their bodies with sugary foods, trans fats, hard alcohol, prepackaged junk food, fast food, sugary sodas, diet sodas filled with artificial everything, and the list goes on and on. Then there’s me, with my salmon, nuts, vegetables, yoga, running, weights, and people often asking me about my health routine. To me, it sends a bit of a mixed message when a person clearly isn’t concerned about heart disease, diabetes, or a myriad of other health issues, but is firm in their resolve about not being COVID vaccinated. Then again, it goes both ways. I see vaccinated individuals who are very committed to COVID-related health items, but not diseases that they are far more likely to die from given their family history and/or lifestyle choices.
But that’s me being judgmental, which is not good. What is good? Choice. The COVID-19 vaccines are new and were developed under unprecedented time constraints and without long-term testing. Plus, 99% of those who contract COVID survive, and some people experience side effects from the various vaccines.
At the end of the day, there should be a choice: get the COVID vaccine or do not get it. It is deeply concerning to me that the freedom to choose is being eroded for our TK-12 school employees by the California Department of Public Health.
“Simon Says” get a vaccine, and if you do not obey, life will be made increasingly uncomfortable. It is not a game, and it is certainly not fun.