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Statement of Senator Dunnavant on SB 1303

RICHMOND – Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), a practicing physician, issued the following statement regarding SB1303 as it relates to mandates on schools being open:

“In March of 2020, then-Governor Ralph Northam unilaterally mandated that all schools must close to slow the spread of Covid-19. Nine months later, too many schools remained closed and Northam was doing little to get schools reopened. Senator Petersen and I said enough is enough – Virginia’s children needed to be back in school five days a week. That is what led to the creation and passage of SB1303 during the 2021 General Assembly Session – a roadmap to get our children back in school as soon as possible and ensure that schools stayed open. The legislation ultimately passed both houses with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the governor.

“SB1303 has been used against our children and against its intent this school year to advance an agenda. SB1303 does not mandate the use of masks in school because the CDC does not mandate masks.

“Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order does not ban masks; it gives parents options. Just like SB1303 does not mandate masks; it gives school boards a roadmap to keep schools open.

“Today, we know that the risk of hospitalization for children is almost none.  In fact, of Virginia’s estimated almost 1.9 million children, .07% have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since March 2020. At the same time, the use of masks in school presents risks of learning loss, social emotional challenges, and other issues. Parents, constitutionally and logically, are the best people to do an analysis of what’s best for their child.

“The risk of Covid-19 to children does not justify the universal need for masks in school, nor does SB1303 mandate the use of masks. It is time for our governing bodies, including school boards, to develop achievable ‘off-ramps’ for the Covid-19 protocols, based on sound scientific principles. The default option should always be normalcy for our children unless there is evidence or metrics to back up the protocol.”