WASHINGTON, DC — Washington’s mask mandate ended Tuesday morning.
It had been nearly two years, and on its final day, stood as one of the country’s last remaining hold-outs. Texas, in contrast, had ended theirs a full year before — while a number of states across the country never even had one at all.
But back in Washington Tuesday morning, a public school employee closed the door in the face of a five-year-old boy who hadn’t brought his mask. It was 39 degrees outside.
Next door, military vehicles idled, while soldiers, policemen, and city workers stood watch on the roads. That very night, just five blocks away, both houses of Congress would be convening to hear the president’s annual address to the nation — free from arbitrary Covid restrictions.
When the date for the speech was announced in January, no one knew what Covid rules Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would demand. As February began, she told the Republican minority leader she might cap the number of guests at 50 — masked.
The politics, however, were already shifting. By mid-February, Democratic governors were pulling back from a hard Covid line by the dozen. The polls were back; the people were done, and a near-empty chamber of masked 80-years-olds would not do.
And so, Pelosi announced Feb. 17, all members of Congress would be invited to the speech. Eleven days later, she said masks would no longer be required.
The show would go on, and the speaker would go maskless. Of course, she clarified, she’d have been wearing one if she’d had any young children at home.
At first glance, that last statement makes no sense — at 81 years old, Pelosi is 140 times more likely to die of Covid than any child. But the speaker’s line had an audience: The woman guarding the door against errant preschoolers — as she’d done every day since school finally reopened.
The governors flipped first. They read the polls among even their own voters, and decided to largely end their “emergency” measures.
The White House was not quick to follow suit; but while moving slowly on ending the emergency, did at least manage to sideline television doom diva Anthony Fauci, keeping him from causing trouble for their governors.
The Congress was next, just freeing up its own members in the past few days.
The teachers unions, however, remain stubborn. Even in many states that have freed adults from all walks from Covid restrictions, children — the weakest politically, and the least vulnerable to Covid — continue to suffer for no reason other than the teachers unions’ refusal to yield.
The political damage is real, but even with parents forming opposition voting blocs from Richmond to San Francisco, Democrats have failed to repeal these new powers and controls from the jealous unions. From pay raises to four-day weeks, to banning parents from the premises, to complete and total control over the breathing of little kids, the unions have won many concessions — and they aren’t in any mood to surrender any.
On Tuesday afternoon, D.C. Public Schools sent parents an email. They were making progress against Covid, they crowed, so the kids would be allowed to take their masks off — outside.
What goal post had they reached? One hundred and seventy-four positive cases out of 46,000. That is 0.3 percent — falling far below even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s benchmark for continued restrictions.
That evening, as children played outside in their masks, an employee confidently told one mother she hadn’t heard anything about any policy change.
Tomorrow morning, as the temperatures hover around 40 degrees, a five-year-old boy will be forced to stand in the cold until he puts on a mask; left out in the cold, with the rest of the children.