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VICTOR JOECKS: Sisolak’s Nevada: mask-free fans, masked kids

Unmasked adults sitting shoulder to shoulder and screaming for hours. Masked schoolchildren struggling to learn how to pronounce letter sounds. Welcome to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Nevada.

Over the past week, Southern Nevada hosted the NHL All-Star game and the NFL Pro Bowl. The events brought a swarm of tourists to Las Vegas. Sisolak took the opportunity to brag about the growth of sports here.

“We know that over 50 percent of our visitors will either add or extend a trip because of sporting events — that’s an estimated 23 million people,” he wrote in an op-ed.

Normally, there’d be nothing wrong with this. Tourists coming to Southern Nevada power the economy. That’s in everyone’s best interest.

Many of these sports fans, however, did something that Sisolak forbids everyday Nevadans, including schoolkids, from doing. They were inside without wearing masks. Just look at the photos.

There was no “tsk-tsking” from the governor, though. That’s because one of his royal edicts created an exception to the mask mandate. Large events and conventions can forgo the mask mandate if they require vaccines. This is the rule that allowed the Raiders to avoid the mask requirement for home games.

It’s been obvious for a long time that mask mandates aren’t particularly effective. Just look at how Nevada’s cases spiked in the winter of 2020 and 2021 despite a mask mandate.

But if you think face coverings are helpful, Sisolak’s policy is one big contradiction. You are much more likely to be around someone with the coronavirus at an event with 15,000 people than at a gathering of 150. Why not allow small venues to eliminate masks if they required vaccines? One suspects that political realities, such as Sisolak’s need for a recovering economy, figures heavily in this discrepancy.

The most outrageous part of this, though, is how it affects children. Sisolak requires Clark County students to wear masks in schools. Mask wearing is extremely detrimental to children, especially young kids. One study conducted during COVID found “word identification is significantly compromised when produced with a surgical face mask.” Young children frequently watch their teachers’ mouths to learn where to place their tongue or how to move their lips. You can’t do that when the instructor wears a mask.

Then there are the nonverbal, facial clues that help children form friendships and navigate relationships. It’s impossible to know how much damage is being done, but it’s obvious masks are setting kids back.

Children also have a lower risk of death than vaccinated adults. In Clark County, more than 350 vaccinated people have died with a breakthrough case of the coronavirus. More than 1.2 million people in Clark County have completed their vaccines. That’s tremendous protection against death.

But those under 19 — vaccinated or not — have even better protection simply by being young. There are more than 830,000 Nevadans under the age of 20. From the start of the pandemic, just 13 people in that age range have died from COVID.

Democratic governors are starting to roll back their masking requirements. Sisolak may not follow the science, but he should at least follow the herd. If sports fans can go without masks, so can kids.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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