One protester said they would ‘find’ the parents who supported mask mandates
When Dr Britt Maxwell and his wife left the Williamson County School District Board meeting earlier this week, they expected some push back.
The recent surge in Delta variant coronavirus cases around Tennessee left the couple worried. They had children in the district, including one with respiratory issues, and wanted to ensure their safety during the upcoming school year.
During the meeting, Dr Maxwell – who has been working on the front lines of the pandemic since it began – decided to share his expertise with the gathered board members and audience. He explained that “in the hospital we’re seeing otherwise healthy people in their 30s and 40s getting sick,” noting that case counts were exponentially climbing and that some people were dying.
It was no secret to the doctor that a sizable portion of the audience attending the meeting were there to oppose mask mandates for students. He spoke to them directly during his address.
“We’re going to have to do everything we can to protect this community. That means that people in this room who don’t agree with me and their kids in the classroom,” he said. “If we don’t do this, we’re going to have school shutdowns and quarantines and needless tragedies and I don’t want that for my community.”
After the meeting, Dr Maxwell and his wife, also a medical professional, were greeted by a mob of angry anti-mask protesters just outside the building.
The group was chanting “we’ll not comply” and held signs declaring their opposition to masking.
Once the parents who supported masking were out of the building, the anti-mask protesters began yelling at them, with one man even threatening they would “find” the parents who backed a mask mandate.
“I was approached and someone put their hand in my face and called me a traitor,” Dr Maxwell told CNN.
The accusation infuriated him, as he had been working with Covid patients since the pandemic started.
“I don’t see anyone can say that when I’ve been on the front lines of this pandemic since the beginning, treating patients in rooms, unvaccinated for the vast majority of it, hoping I wouldn’t take it home to my family,” he said. “For someone to say that is mind blowing.”
He said that despite the encounters outside the meeting, he still believes that the safest way for schools to resume is by masking up.
His view falls in line with the latest guidance issued by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends all students, teachers and support staff wear masks during the school day.
While children are less likely to suffer the worst symptoms of Covid-19 – like the need for hospitalisation, or dying from the disease – the American Academy of Pediatrics has reported an 85 per cent increase in cases in children for the week ending 29 July.
The AAP has also called on the US Food and Drug Administration to fast-track vaccine approval for children under 12, arguing that the benefits outweigh the risks of leaving them unvaccinated.
Despite the recent surge in childhood coronavirus cases, some Republican state leaders have blocked efforts to mandate masks in schools. Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis used his executive powers to stop all emergency mandates in the state that restricted businesses or schools, and has banned educators from forcing students to wear masks in the classroom.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott enacted a similar ban.