Letter to the Editor: Mary Vasquez

By Mary R. Vasquez

January 22, 2021

RE:  Mask Requirement for Public School Basketball

Colorado Department of Health and Environment:

My name is Mary Vasquez, and I am writing you as a concerned parent and public school educator.  I am concerned with the health and safety of our children being required to wear masks during rigorous physical activity.  I am most perplexed by the lack of concern exhibited by public “health” agencies that do not seem to put the health of the very people they serve at the forefront of their decision-making.  I am concerned by the research that I’ve found from health resources like the CDC that shows children from 0-17 years of age are less than .1% and .1% of the positive cases.  This data was as of 12:16 p.m. on January 14, 2021.  Why is so much time spent on school-aged children masking at school and during sports, when they are the least-affected demographic? 

No one wants anyone to contract this virus; however, it is not the dire situation that is being portrayed for this demographic.  I also do not need the American Academy of Pediatrics to tell me that wearing a mask is safe for certain athletes and not for others.  I have seen the pulse oximeter when my son enters the doctor’s office while wearing his mask and how his oxygenation levels rise the minute he removes his mask—and that’s just from walking from the waiting room to the patient room.   We must strike a balance between stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the general health of our population.  However, I feel that there is no balance nor equitability in the decisions being made and then forced upon all school districts.

I understand guidelines and suggestions, but mandates with no room for discussion seem to be becoming the “norm” lately.  This is where my concern turns to fear.  The very organizations pledged to help protect us are no longer seeming to even consider us in their decisions.  The need for masks, in general, confuses me a bit since we still pass the common cold and strep around while adhering to this requirement.  Wearing a mask has also never kept me from a quarantine after exposure to a positive student case.  It is difficult to see a purpose in a seemingly inconsequential practice.  As a teacher, if the result of the process does not produce the desired outcome, I alter the process to produce a different result.  I also believe that we are now in a different time than we were nearly a year ago.  We have access to therapeutics and a vaccine.  We know more of the risks and can make more educated decisions on our own due to our experiences of the past 11 months. 

I urge you to reconsider these mask requirements for the sake of our children.  If masking is the hill the battle must be fought upon, may I suggest that active players not be required to mask much like the requirements set forth for wrestling that is a contact sport where competitors are in much closer proximity to one another for longer periods of time?  Players on the bench and spectators in the crowd wearing masks makes more health sense than players exerting physically on the court. 

Besides the apprehension I feel about my own children wearing masks while playing, one of which has trouble breathing from time to time, I am just as worried about my students.  I believe public health needs to also consider the mental health of those they serve.  I have had children in tears in my classroom, who are worried about having a panic attack or asthma attack on the court.  They fear ripping off their masks because they can’t breathe.  They fear the consequences for their teams.  They fear disappointing coaches and parents.  They feel powerless and terrified.  For many, this is the very outlet they utilize their daily stress; however, these requirements have taken that from them.  They are now more worried about this area of their lives more than any other.  It’s affecting their focus at school and in their personal lives.  Many are having nightmares about the part of their lives that used to be exciting, fun, and something they looked forward to.

I sincerely ask you to reconsider these mask requirements for active players.  I ask you to address the effects these requirements will have on the very citizens you are attempting to protect.  Please consider liability waivers, school variances, and other avenues of compromise to allow the citizens you serve to have a voice in reality of the procedures you are creating on paper.  I understand that this is new territory, but I also understand that our children need us to fully consider what is best for them and to show them how public services work for them and with them to create a better daily life for everyone.  Right now, that is not what they are being shown.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this issue.



Mary R. Vasquez

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