UPDATE: The Virginia Beach School Board met Tuesday night to discuss its mask policy for the upcoming school year. The discussion stretched late into the night as members debated the path forward. Click here for more information.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — “If you don’t wear a mask, then you could get sick,” Portsmouth fifth-grader Treyana Lowden told 10 On Your Side.
Treyana wants people to wear masks because if they don’t, she thinks they can get sick.
That sounds simple enough — except whether to wear a mask or not has become complicated, and even political.
“If you force it on people, it’s like you are shaming them,” said Virginia Beach School Board member Laura Hughes.
Hughes plans to submit a resolution that would dictate wearing a mask as a personal decision.
“My resolution states in the absence of a state-wide mandate, masks will be optional for students, staff and guests in the school,” Hughes said.
Hughes also blames Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) for vague messages that she says basically turn a CDC recommendation into a mandate.
“The CDC has no authority to mandate anything. They can make recommendations all day long, but they don’t make mandates,” she said.
Hughes calls it “political.”
“I think the governor is walking a tight rope. We are getting close to elections, and I think he wants to create a little fear just in time for absentee voting to start. I think he is also concerned about pushing people too far with this, and losing elections for his party, so he wants to put it out there to let other people make decisions, and his hands are clean,” she said.
After months of delay, Deborah Lowden finally got vaccinated and had her granddaughter watch. We asked her whether a CDC recommendation should be a requirement, like a law.
“Oh, yes. I do. Because even with the shots, you should wear the mask. I really want them to wear the mask in school because I want them in school this year,” she said.
Hughes and others think Northam has made it obvious that masking up is the law.
“That law was passed by a strong bipartisan vote of the legislature and I expect school divisions to follow it. If they chose not to follow it, they should have a frank discussion with their legal counsel,” Northam said Thursday.
On Tuesday, Hughes and other Virginia Beach School Board members will hear a recommendation from the school administration. She thinks she knows how it will go,
“I believe our administration will recommend masking, and I thought that after the announcement yesterday. I believe the administration will recommend masking,” she said.
Hughes also thinks if the governor makes wearing a mask a mandate, her resolution is a moot point.
“Because the resolution states in the ‘absence of a mandate’ masks will be optional… So it really shouldn’t have any ‘no’ votes,” she said.
It’s taken Lowden months to get vaccinated and to those who are frustrated by those not getting vaccinated — which is about half the country — it’s not an easy decision for some.
“I’m not going to say it’s selfish [for people not to get vaccinated] because I was one of those people. I prayed about it, and I looked at the census, and the things going on,” she said.
Lowden wants her granddaughter in class and if that means masks, so be it. Treyana
“I feel better because I feel protected from the coronavirus. And I feel the coronavirus can’t get me when I’m wearing a mask … and others are wearing masks who are around me,” Treyana, Lowden’s fifth-grade granddaughter, said.
Philip Sitterding just got his vaccination as well.
“I think masks have been shown to prevent spread, and to help prevent people from getting sick when someone else is sick,” he said.
Hughes still thinks masks should be a personal decision.
“If it makes you feel better to wear a mask, then wear one. It’s a personal decision,” she said.
More information on back-to-school mask plans made so far:
- Chesapeake – OPTIONAL
- Williamsburg/JCC – REQUIRED
- Virginia Beach – NO DECISION YET
- CURRITUCK, N.C. – OPTIONAL
- York County – OPTIONAL