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Protect yourself, love others

Imagine for a moment a parent who says, “I’m not going to make my child wear a warm coat in the winter. You know, sometimes it’s hard to move their arms in those coats.” How long would it be before that child ends up with frostbite when the temperatures drop below freezing?

It’s just as illogical for some parents to be against wearing masks in schools these days, but we have seen protests around the country against mask mandates.

According to guidelines issued in August, mask use in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be tied to case counts in each local jurisdiction. Baltimore City and all the counties within the archdiocese except Garrett have at least one Catholic school.

Under the guidelines, masking status will be based on the average new cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days. In low-transmission (0 to 1.3 cases per 100,000) and moderate-transmission jurisdictions (1.3-7.0 cases/100,000), parents can make the choice to have their children wear a mask. In areas with substantial (7.1-14.1 cases/100,000) and high (14.2 cases/100,000 and higher) transmission, masks will be required for all adults and students.

At press time, all the jurisdictions within the archdiocese were in the substantial or high transmission category and the statewide average is in the high range. Cases are on the rise, at levels last seen in January and April. The quick-spreading delta variant drives the case counts, as even those who have been vaccinated can transmit the disease, and those who are unvaccinated – including children – are therefore more susceptible.

We are in this together – and together, we have to get a handle on this.

In a global ad campaign, Pope Francis said that when each individual makes a small act of charity, such as getting the COVID-19 vaccine, every gesture added together can transform the world.

“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love – love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people,” he said in a public service announcement released Aug. 18 in Rome.

The FDA approved Aug. 23 the Pfizer-­BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in people 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is still authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15.

Despite hundreds of millions of successful doses, the emergency use authorization of vaccines was one of the reasons – you might call them excuses – some people cited for choosing not to get vaccinated. It should be noted that while the specific vaccines against the coronavirus were developed and tested quickly, the science and technology behind them has been in development for years.

With full approval by the FDA – one of the most respected science agencies in the world – of at least one of the vaccines, perhaps some of those who have been reluctant to take the shot will get one. Full approval of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is likely to come soon as well.

It’s important to acknowlege that some people cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. And, although the vaccines are in testing for younger children, those under 12 still don’t have an option to receive one. For this reason, it remains important for everyone who can to get the vaccine when they can and mask when they should.

It’s also important to note that the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and our own Archbishop William E. Lori have noted that there is no moral objection for Catholics to receive the vaccine, since the connection to possible abortive stem-cell lines used in testing the vaccines is so remote, and the use of the vaccine is an act of charity and love which can be done in good conscience.

If you love your neighbor, help protect yourself and others. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated.

Email Christopher Gunty at editor@CatholicReview.org.

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