Majority against mask mandate, according to survey

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, August 11, 2021

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By Daniel Evans and Cole Trahan

The majority of parents are not in favor of the Troup County School System’s mask mandate for students, according to an online survey from The LaGrange Daily News.

In response to Thursday’s decision, the LDN published a poll on its website and Facebook pages, asking the community how it felt about the mask mandate. The mandate was announced during a two-hour school board meeting last week, which included more than a dozen speakers — most against the mandate.

In the end, the board voted 6-1 in favor of the mandate.

The LDN’s survey asked seven questions, all related to COVID-19 and masks.

There were 727 total responses, with 633 of those responding identifying as a parent of a child in the school system.

The Troup County School System has an estimated 12,200 students, so roughly 5 percent of parents were polled.

Of the total respondents, 456 people, or 62.8 percent, were against the mandate. A total of 270 respondents, or 37.2 percent, were for the mandate.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked about their concern level about COVID-19 and were asked to rank it on a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most). Almost of a third of responses (31.5%) to that question answered “1”, meaning least concerned. Ten had the second most responses at 16.6%. The average response to the question was 4.75.

A question specifically asked survey takers if they have had COVID-19, or if their spouse or children had COVID-19. A majority, 59.1%, said no, and 40.9% said yes.

Interestingly, people who answered “yes” to that question were also more against the mask mandate. There were 295 respondents who have had COVID (or had a case in their intermediate family), and out of those 295, only 112 (37.9%) were in favor of the mask mandate. More who had dealt with COVID personally were against (62.1%).

Only 11.4% of respondents said their child is vaccinated for COVID-19. More than half (51.3%) said no, and another 37.3% said their child is under 12 and cannot be vaccinated yet.

Most (52.3%) said they weren’t seriously considering other options for school following the mask mandate, but 338 respondents said they were.

Respondents were also asked for the grade level of their child/children, and every grade level was represented by at least 64 responses and as many as 96.

“We understand that people are weary of mask-wearing, as am I,” said Board Chairwoman Cathy Hunt. “In early July, COVID cases in Troup County were so low that we were all looking forward to a mask-optional start to school. A month later, however, much has changed for the worst. Troup County cases and hospitalizations are soaring, the Delta variant is spreading like wildfire, and children are being hospitalized with serious infections at a rate not seen before.”

“Already, the case count in our system is going up. Some schools in Georgia are already shutting down, and many are reversing their opinions on masks being optional. Many anti-maskers are simply not aware of the new statistics and not getting their “facts” from highly-regarded medical agencies. Therefore, they don’t understand our decision. Our board and administration are devoted to doing all we can to keep students and staff healthy and keep our buildings open, but we certainly look forward to the day when numbers are trending down again, and we can change course on the masks. I’ve heard from scores of parents and citizens who are thanking us for taking the stand we have at this point.”

It’s clear many in the community have a lot of opinions on the mandate.

“If the children have to wear a mask all day long, and if the mask keeps you from getting the virus, why would you have to quarantine after being next to someone [with COVID-19]?” said Sandra Stephens, a community member who took the survey. “If you have your mask on and they have their mask on, then you wouldn’t get it even if you were next to them.”

Hunt said Tuesday that new guidelines from DPH do not require students to quarantine if they are masked and around someone with COVID-19.

And those guidelines are regardless of vaccination status. The Georgia Department of Public Health has numbers through July 27 on its website for vaccinated individuals who get COVID-19. Of over 4 million people vaccinated against the virus, GDPH said only 118 had been hospitalized with a case of COVID-19.

Troup County is averaging 53.6 cases of COVID-19 per day right now, according to GDPH. Superintendent Brian Shumate said there were 56 cases in TCSS as of Tuesday, up from 24 on Thursday.

Forty of those are students, 16 are employees. There were 92 students quarantined and 11 employees quarantined.

Shumate noted several times during last week’s meeting that he felt a mask mandate was best because it gave TCSS the best chance to say in school as cases rise.

Another survey-taker against the mask mandate was Dawn Williams. Williams said people online have been telling parents who don’t want to have their children wear masks to take them out of school.

“Well, I could say that back,” she said.

“Take your kid out of school if you’re worried that my kid’s going to get them sick. But don’t let them go spend the night off at so-and-so’s house or go to the rec center or play sports either because my kid might get your kid sick. It makes no sense.”

Rachel Sprayberry said that she opposes the mask mandate because her child, who has asthma, seems to need to use her inhaler more often when she has to wear a mask.

“Last school year, she had to use her inhaler multiple times a week, whereas she wasn’t having to use one before,” she said.

Erik Mays, who is on the West Point Elementary School council, said he’s in favor of the mask mandate to “keep kids and employees as safe as possible.”

While he doesn’t think masks are 100% effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, he thinks they help.

“I’m not a medical doctor, but medical professionals say that masks help, so I’m going to trust them,” he said.

Mays said he understands that people don’t want their liberties taken away.

“But when it comes to a public health crisis, you’ve got to put your neighbor’s needs at the top because your neighbors going to put your needs at the top, as well,” he said. “So, we have to look out for each other, and we have to do what’s good for each other. And that’s kind of where we are right now.”