The masking problem is personal, thanks to our gentle Violet

People see me under my mask and assume they know my politics. They don’t. It’s okay with me. But I wish they knew Violet.

Some readers may recall hearing about her last fall during Down Syndrome Awareness Month. At the time, my wife Emily and I were on a five month journey as a parents of a child with Down’s syndrome, an extra copy of the 21st chromosome that causes features associated with Down syndrome, including related health problems, poor muscle tone, and cognitive delays.

Over the past 15 months, Violet’s charming smile, soft laugh, and adorable bursts of baby jargon have won over friends, caregivers, therapists and passing strangers. So far, no one has been immune to his unbridled joy and positivity.

To know Violet is to love Violet, and her calendar is always busy.

She works with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists, both privately and through Bucks County Early Intervention and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Then, of course, she has a plethora of non-therapeutic dates. So far this month, she has seen her pediatrician, an ear, nose and throat specialist who needed a pre-appointment COVID test, an audiologist and the team at Clinic T- 21 from CHOP in Philadelphia.

Another family fight:She wanted to go back to school in the midst of the cancer battle. Mask exemptions now keep this Council Rock student at home.

Violet does a grueling – and at times painful – job in the relentless pursuit of a bright, limitless future.

We have seen his efforts pay huge dividends. Violet is constantly working on her social skills, focus, and motor planning skills. Now, at 16 months, Violet is slowly crawling into the military, climbing stairs, drinking from mugs using straws, understanding and using a handful of ASL signs and deliberately pointing and verbalizing to communicate.

Jean Anastasi

We couldn’t be prouder of this little girl. It is truly a generous gift from God.

One of the ways that Emily, Luke (our 4 year old) and I honor and protect the hard work she does is by faithfully wearing our masks when we are in churches, shops and other establishments and when we are outdoors in places that can get crowded.

In October 2020, a British study of more than 8 million people in The Annals of Internal Medicine found that adults over 40 with Down syndrome who contract COVID-19 are four times more likely to be hospitalized – and 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. die – than the general population.

Violet is not an adult, but we can see how difficult it would be for her to deal with COVID. For example, when Violet is congested – and it happens almost every day – her poor muscle tone makes it very difficult for her to cough hard enough to clear the phlegm in her chest. She also has the characteristic physical markers of Down syndrome – weakened ear canals, small mouth and narrow throat, and nasal passages – that make her more susceptible to respiratory viruses and ear infections.

We were concerned that these traits could play directly into the hands of COVID and, of course, the CDC lists Down syndrome as an underlying medical condition that “may make you more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19” .

The delta variant cut our summer short of “back to normal”. So far, plummeting infection rates have tended to increase again, and ultimately Bucks County and most other counties in Pennsylvania were seen as places with high levels of transmission. community.

Shortly thereafter, the CDC characterized the delta variant as twice as contagious as previous versions, and studies in Canada, Scotland and Singapore indicated that hospitalization rates were higher with the delta than it did. that we saw in the early stages of the pandemic.

Emily Anastasi and her 1 year old daughter Violet admire the tulips at Dalton Farms in Swedesboro, NJ.  Violet's diagnosis of Down's syndrome made wearing the mask a personal issue for the Anastasi family.

The CDC on August 5 recommended universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of immunization status, sparking emotional battles at state school board meetings to see if masks would be optional or mandatory. when the school year started.

Emily teaches at a public high school, and as the school year approaches, we worried that she could get infected – despite her N95 mask and face shield – and then pass the virus on to our sweet Violet, especially since vaccinated people can transmit the delta variant.

We understand that questions remain about the effectiveness of masks when worn by children and many studies that conclude that wearing masks stops the spread in schools fail to isolate the effects of masks from other measures. mitigation, such as social distancing, ventilation, and frequent hand washing.

We also accept that wearing a mask is at best uncomfortable and at worst partly responsible for skin irritations and negative impacts on social, emotional and educational development.

On the flip side, dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies argue that wearing masks correctly, even fabric masks, will, to some extent, slow the spread of COVID-19.

Maybe the science is not 100% settled. But I’m going to mask myself because, if they work, I’m protecting my child. If they don’t, then sometimes I wear an uncomfortable mask. Also, while I accept the argument that masks only offer a little extra protection, I will take any extra protection they offer.

Emily and I employ this philosophy elsewhere. Violet takes a daily supplement battery because our research has shown that they are likely to provide her with low risk health benefits.

Here, we heaved a collective sigh of relief when Governor Wolf’s Acting Health Secretary ordered masks to be worn inside kindergarten to grade 12 school buildings, effective September 7.

Not everyone feels like us and we support exceptions to the mask mandate in the rare event that they are truly medically necessary.

In my experience, most young people care about each other, want to protect each other and, when given an informed choice, can humiliate us with their wisdom and selflessness.

If masks were to become optional again, I would encourage parents who oppose masking their children to think about vulnerable children in their communities, children like Violet, for whom the infection would be far more than uncomfortable and bothersome.

If you are still wondering about my policy, I am not voting “red” or “blue”. I vote Violet. It is a beautiful shade of purple.

John Anastasi is Director of Viewpoint and Editorial Editor for USA Today Network, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]

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