Mask and vaccine mandates are the new territories for politicization

The new front in the ideological battle between Liberals and Conservatives has begun

Jacob Berr, News Writer

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and face mask mandates have become the latest battlegrounds in the larger wars of American partisan politics. Liberal and conservative pundits, politicians, parents and people online have been debating whether or not masks and vaccines should be mandatory. However, the issues are not always partisan. Republicans and Democrats might want to reject or accept taking a vaccine or wearing a mask for a variety of reasons.

Democrats and Republicans alike tend to believe in misinformation about the dangers of COVID-19. That is important for vaccine and mask mandates because these measures are meant to protect people against COVID-19. 

Republicans argue that mask and vaccine mandates are unconstitutional despite the Supreme Court having a long history of supporting such mandates and claiming they are constitutional. More conspiratorial conservatives believe microchips are in masks and vaccines allowing the government to track them. Other conservatives contradict the evidential science and do not believe that masks and vaccines work.

While not as conspiratorial as conservatives, liberals tend to believe in misconceptions that exaggerate how dangerous the virus is. 

According to the Brookings Institute, even though only 1-5% of people who catch COVID-19 have to be hospitalized, 41% of Democrats think that over half of the people who contract COVID-19 need to be taken to the hospital for it. That is much higher than Republicans, of which only 26% believed the same thing. Liberals also tend to overestimate the number of children that die of COVID-19, as many believe that they make up a large portion of COVID-19 deaths. However,  Americans under 18 make up for only 0.04% of deaths caused by COVID. The misinformation that liberals believe isn’t as conspiratorial as the misinformation conservatives believe. However, the misinformation liberals believe still warps their perception of how dangerous COVID-19 is. 

A space where mask and vaccine mandates have become particularly contentious issues is in schools. Angry parents have come to school board meetings to argue on the behalf of their side of the political debate. Parents have been taking their information they learned about COVID-19, masks and vaccines and have used it in their arguments at school board meetings.

One major example of vaccine and mask mandates in schools is in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a wealthy suburb of Detroit. Parents in Grosse Pointe became angry about their schools not instituting a mask mandate. 

“Everybody wants to be back in-person learning, but I don’t understand why we do not have mitigation strategies,” one woman said, according to the local Fox affiliate. “Why would we not have our youngest learners who are not vaccinated being around a bunch of people who don’t want to wear masks?” Later that month, the district implemented a mask mandate.

 Later in November, the conversation flared up again when trustee Lisa Papas proposed a resolution to disobey Wayne County’s mask order. Papas said that students would “suffer” by missing instruction, which she thought was caused by them wearing masks. 

According to WJBK, Papas “endorsed the resolution, arguing it holds water since the state’s latest budget agreement deemed local health department orders were unenforceable.” Despite this resolution, the Grosse Pointe school board says they will try to create a legal option to keep a mask mandate at the next board meeting.

When we asked students from Rancocas Valley whether or not they agreed with mask and vaccine mandates, opinions were mixed.

“A lot of people, in this school anyway, keep their masks down and it is not really helping anyone and it’s just an inconvenience to have a mask,” sophomore Aleksey Fedor said. “We need to get this over with so the world can just go back to completely normal.”

“I think it is ok, you [have to] do what you gotta do to be safe,” senior Jorge Roman said. “You [have to] wear one.”

However, Roman has a different opinion on mandatory vaccinations. “Maybe [vaccines should] not [be] mandatory, I think they should be an option,” he said. “But I believe in them and you should get [it] if [an illness] gets serious.”

Republican governors in places like Florida, Texas and South Dakota have been rolling back their states’ COVID-19 restrictions, arguably in order to rally their base of supporters. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis attempted to ban local school districts from having mask mandates through an executive order. Some parents filed a lawsuit claiming that the executive order was unconstitutional. According to U.S.News, Leon County Circuit Judge John later overturned his executive order because he said that the order was “without legal authority.”

Democratic governors are sticking to a different approach. They are, for the most part, sticking to the science and have mostly re-opened for vaccinated people with some mask mandates at certain places.

Overall, mask and vaccine mandates have been made political due to Democrats and Republicans receiving different information regarding COVID-19, then forming contrasting opinions. Said information is often misinformation, falsehoods and in some cases, conspiracy theories, which continues to perpetuate the widening gap between red and blue states.