Anti-maskers protest OR’s enforcement of state mask mandates

Nov 16, 2021

A group of Old Rochester Regional parents has hosted periodic protests at the school, speaking out against requiring students to wear masks.

“We don’t want the government or the school system to mandate anything that affects the health and well-being of our children,’’ said Kristina Mullin, one of the parents involved in the protests. “The freedom to make that choice is huge.’’

The group, called Mattapoisett-Marion-Rochester MA Against Mandates, is part of an umbrella group, Mass Against Mandates. The local group has about 200 to 250 members, Mullin said.

Mullin described the organization as “a group of parents who decided to finally take a stand and speak out and say we’re not happy with what’s going on.’’

She questioned why children are not required to wear masks in certain settings, such as birthday parties and other gatherings with friends, but must don them in school.

“Fear clouds people’s judgement,’’ she said.

All Massachusetts public schools are required to mandate mask usage while indoors because of state guidelines from The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

DESE has extended the mask requirement for students through at least Jan. 15, 2022. After that, schools with at least 80% of students and staff fully vaccinated can drop the requirement for vaccinated individuals.

The mask requirement was made, according to the department, to “ensure students attend classes in a safe environment.’’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other organizations, support the mask mandate.

"We are continuing to work with our school committees and local health departments to track and evaluate the vaccination rates at our schools,’’ Superintendent of Schools Michael S. Nelson said in response to the protests. “The health and safety of our students and staff remains our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance provided to us by the state and our public health officials."

Mullin said decisions about children’s health should be made by parents and the child’s doctor and not by school officials.

“Everybody should have the freedom of choice for their body,’’ she said. If people feel their child would be safer wearing a mask, that should be allowed, she said.

“Wear it if you want,’’ she said. “If you don’t, don’t.’’

The CDC advises that mask wearing provides protection to both the wearer and those around them. In fact, cloth masks are significantly more effective at blocking the emission of virus-laden droplets from an infected person than filtering it out for another mask wearer.

“The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these effects; individual prevention benefit increases with increasing numbers of people using masks consistently and correctly,” reads a CDC study.

The CDC estimates that over half of all covid transmissions are caused by asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected people who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others.