A newly minted South Dakota teacher is looking forward to starting her job, but she's "terrified" by inconsistent messaging from her state's Republican governor.
Lizzie Hansen, a 23-year-old rookie special education teacher, is worried that Gov. Kristi Noem hasn't required masks inside schools, and even urged families over the summer to send their children back to class without them, reported The Daily Beast.
“We believe that when it comes to children, masks have the potential to do more harm than good,” Noem said in a fundraising email, although a spokesperson later disavowed those remarks as “in-artfully crafted.”
The governor has hosted President Donald Trump's fireworks spectacle last month and endorsed this month's motorcycle gathering in Sturgis, which drew about 250,000 bikers who largely gathered without masks or social distancing.
“One percent of 250,000 is 2,500,” Hansen said, calculating the odds of COVID-19 infections spreading out from the nine-day event. “I’m terrified of what’s to come in the next couple weeks.”
Noem has emphasized positive thinking as she pushed to reopen businesses and schools, downplaying the risks from the potentially coronavirus, questioning the effectiveness of masks and latching onto since-debunked claims that children don't get sick from COVID-19.
“So let’s remember to put our positive pants on,” Noem said last week. “We need to emphasize facts, not fear. Let’s tell the story of what works in the fight against this virus, and let’s continue to get through this together.”
Hansen will enter the classroom with more than a positive attitude when students return Aug. 27, saying she's bought 12 masks and plans to encourage her students to wear them.
“It’s a day I’ve been dreaming about for four years, but this is not the way I thought it would go,” Hansen said. “I am extremely excited, but also extremely nervous.”
“We’re going to be talking about why we wear masks,” she added, basing her conclusions on recent scientific consensus. “If they’re wrong, I look silly for a couple of weeks, so I don’t lose anything by wearing a mask.”