Upper School Safety Social Safety Compact Lacks Clarity, Incites Confusion

COVID-19 social compact needs clear guidelines

Chad Woerner, Staff Writer

On Jan. 4, Head of School Dr. Anne Staveny released the “COVID-19 Health & Safety Social Compact 2020-21.” According to the terms, those in agreement with the contract had to sign it no later than Jan. 14, 2021. However, much of the contract’s language is too broad and includes restrictions that won’t help stop the virus’s further spread. 

There are various sources of concern in the wording of the contract, one being the requirement to “wear a face mask and maintain appropriate social distancing at all times when interacting with others who are not part of our immediate household.” Under such circumstances, one would have a violation if they decided to go to the dentist, if an emergency medical situation prevented them from wearing a mask, or if they had a medical exemption. The contract fails to make any clear exceptions for these reasonable scenarios. 

Other family members are also subject to the regulations. This does not make a lot of sense for families with multiple households that are not physically interacting with each other – for example, college students. Their decisions related to health precautions would not directly impact the Blake community, so they shouldn’t be subject to the school’s regulation. 

Whether teachers and other employees at Blake are bound to the terms of the contract is unclear. Because they are so often interacting with members of the Blake community on a day-to-day basis, there should be clarity on whether they, too, have any obligation to be following reasonable health precautions. 

There is also an absence of any timeline. As vaccinations enter later stages, will there be any relaxation of the guidelines, particularly the more stringent ones? Students and parents should know how long they are bound to the restrictions. 

For example, Operation Warp Speed was founded on May 15, 2020 and it was created in order to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. It is one of the largest mass vaccination efforts in U.S. history and their goal has been to allow vaccinated citizens to resume “normal” activities once they have built up immunity. According to CDC and state data, before the compact even goes into effect, there will already have been at least 120,000 shots given in Minnesota and 22 million nationwide. Why would one wear a mask with a person, not in their immediate household who has been vaccinated, especially after their second shot? 

Enforcement will also likely be difficult, but there is no easy solution for that. There is no foolproof way for the school to monitor all of its students’ personal lives. But there is at least a clear path to punishment for those who partake in an egregious activity when there is enough evidence.