American schoolchildren already back in the classroom are, I read the other day, spreading Covid. Now, it seems that the Delta variant, in addition to being very transmissible, also more readily causes serious illness in children than do other iterations of this disease; and this is surely not the time for Republican political leaders to check their education and common sense at the door in an effort to score political points with the more radicalized members of their base. But Filipino reader, this is exactly what many Republican leaders are doing. Eight Republican governors have banned public school districts from requiring students and staff to wear masks on campus.
In America, the political right seems to have trapped itself in negative feedback loops involving citizens, politicians, and right-wing media outlets. Liberty is extolled to the skies, while responsibility of one citizen for another is laughed off. Immigrants, especially non-white immigrants, arouse suspicion and even fear in the minds of these people. And so much else. Filipino reader, the political left in America has faults as well, but this banning of mask mandates in schools, when infection rates are soaring, in the name of "liberty" is, what, nakakahiya.
One of the most disgraceful of these Republican leaders is not a governor but a U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. This is the politician who flew with his family to Cancun at the height of a crisis caused by a freak snowstorm in his state (you may remember the story). Recently, his very vocal support of the ban on mask mandates in schools illustrates well the hypocrisy on increasing display among Republican leaders caught up in the aformentioned feedback loops: you see, Mr. Cruz's children all go to a private school that, you guessed it, has a mask mandate.
American reader, the virus has not been politicized in the Philippines, but I would not be surprised to see it become politicized in the coming run-up to the once-in-six-years general election to be held next May. Yet if the virus does get bandied about in the upcoming debates, I'm pretty certain it will not lead to a situation as caustic and dangerous as the situation you are facing over there.
To give you a thumbnail sketch of the current circumstances on Luzon, Covid-wise: testing this week in Metro Manila puts the positive rate there at above 20%. Daily new infections and deaths have been rising in number in the metro region for almost a month, thanks to the Delta variant. And Delta has burst the lockdown cordons surrounding Metro Manila: it is heading north, more virulently, it seems, on the western side of the island. Makeshift Covid wards are being prepared in Tarlac, San Fernando, and Olongapo due to the fast uptick in cases in those cities. Cabanatuan is on the eastern side of Luzon, but restrictions have been tightened here: sit-down dining in restaurants ended (again) last week; stiff and certain fines are imposed on anyone in public not wearing a mask. Throughout the island, travel between provinces is being restricted to those who have a. been tested just before the trip and b. filled out the appropriate paperwork at barangay and municipal offices.
In-class learning here? There is none, and the government has not offered any timeline on when it may return.
Yes, I'm worried there will be another island-wide lockdown like the one we had last spring and summer. But I'm worried more about those friends I've made here who still don't have access to a vaccine: inoculations outside of Metro Manila are still restricted to people on the "priorities list" -- old folks like me, people involved in medical work, government employees, the indigent. Most people up here are still waiting.