Mask Fear Campaign: No End In Sight

As school districts kick can down the road, politicization widens and deepens

Good afternoon and thanks for spending a portion of your day with The Kerr Report. I hope everyone is having a productive and maskless week thus far.

A few travel notes from this past weekend.

The signs remain stitched on gas station windows. On lampposts, fence lines.

Instructions for a public health policy never fully validated by scientific data and no longer tolerated by those for which it was intended.

FACE COVERINGS REQUIRED

In traveling to Michigan this past weekend for a graduation, seeing those three words presented in various forms and locations reminded me of old concert posters that remain stuck to streetlights well after the band has left town.

Michigan, a state that has the dubious distinction of electing a governor as megalomaniacal as Gov. Pritzker (although much less politically savvy than J.B.), is in the later stages of its re-opening plan.

June 1: 100% capacity outdoor, 50% indoor

July 1: no restrictions, indoor or outdoor

Mask policy: DNM (does not matter)

I attended an outdoor reception at a private club in Grand Rapids, MI Sunday afternoon. While there was probably room to fit a few more tables on the front lawn of the club, it appeared pretty much everyone invited showed up (guests ranged in age from infant babies to those well into their 80’s.) Not a mask in sight or vaccination card spotted. The facility didn’t care and knowing the hosts, I doubt the subject was ever discussed.

If there were people who felt uncomfortable attending the large gathering, they just didn’t come. We are well into that old/new again norm where for most, fidelity to living triumphs over fears about death.

But the freedoms celebrated this weekend (and all summer) occurred on private sector grounds. Concerns over public institutions remains.

A Republican-led bill in the Michigan legislature reveals how legitimate those concerns are. From the website Mlive.com:

House Bill 4667, sponsored by Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, aims to ban Michigan governmental entities from creating or requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports to access services or penalize a person based on vaccination status. The bill would allow for civil action to compel a governmental entity to comply with the act.

Under the legislation, a governmental entity would be defined as any entity primarily funded by tax dollars — including schools and universities. Some public universities, including the University of Michigan, have announced plans to require students to provide proof of vaccination or an approved exemption to live in on-campus housing

The state House passed the bill last week, sending it off to the Senate.

Posturing is what’s driving much of this bill-writing, seen by the division of votes along party lines (although in Michigan, four Democrats voted for HB 4667.) But the fact 19 states have already passed legislation banning or restricting the use of “vaccine passports” tells us how much of a hot button topic it is.

Not surprising, Illinois has done nothing. But there is plenty of political jockeying going on in Springfield and at the local level.

Pritzker has spoken on the subject on a few occasions but has given the type of opaque answers one would expect from a politician with fingers in many pots.

On April 30, he gave his first public comments about vaccine passports, stating the state “will not create a way for residents to show they have been vaccinated.”

But he left the door open for the state to be involved by saying this at the same April 30 press conference:

We may look for some way to have an electronic measure available to residents who want a system to show vaccination status.

That's just something, again, if the users desire, you know, if they want to use something like that. We want to make that available, but otherwise, it's not something that we would require

Not “require” but “want to make available.” Who’s elbow is getting greased?

In early May, Pritzker was asked at another event about vaccine passports.

Via MyRadioLink.com:

Illinois’ governor says the state likely won’t require you to have a vaccine passport, but he says businesses in the state might. Governor JB Pritzker said he doesn’t support requiring people to have proof of vaccination to get back to normal. Pritzker said people may want to hang on to their cards, however, because he said private businesses may require them. The governor says the state would only get involved if the private sector asks.

OK, J.B. If only “the private sector asks.” You are such the public servant.

All of this double-talk from the governor (and just overall distrust of Illinois Democrats) prompted a Republican house member to file his own piece of legislation preventing vaccine passports at public events, HB 4081, also known as the Vaccine Credential Act. The bill “provides that a unit of local government or the State may not require a person to have a vaccine credential or show a vaccine credential before the person enters a public event or public venue.”

In a statement, Andrew Chesney of Freeport, sponsor of the legislation, said this:

Vaccine passports should not be a requirement for Illinoisans. This would not only be an infringement on the liberties and freedom of Illinoisans, but also a violation of our constituents’ medical privacy. To envision a society where we restrict the rights of some by the nature of medical treatments they have received or not received is not only discriminatory, but dystopian.

A few weeks ago, Chesney wrote an opinion piece for the Rockford Register Star. Explaining his reasoning for sponsoring anti-vaccine passport legislation despite the fact Gov. Pritzker has said the state wouldn’t require it, Chesney wrote this:

Vaccines are a personal medical choice and those who do not take it should not be excluded or stigmatized. Vaccine passports should not be a requirement for Illinoisans. This would not only be an infringement on the liberties and freedom of Illinoisans, but also a violation of our constituents’ medical privacy.

What we cannot allow, though, is disparate treatment of our neighbors based on medical treatments. It is nearly inconceivable to do so. To envision a society where we restrict the rights of some by the nature of medical treatments they have received or not received is not only discriminatory, but dystopian.

I am under no illusions that my legislation to ban vaccine passports will become law under Democrat supermajority control in the Illinois House. However, it is important for the public to be asking their elected officials these questions and holding their feet to the fire if the response is to take away freedoms rather than strengthen rights that our Constitution proclaims are God-given and government-recognized.

Speak up while we still have the ability in this country!

Chesney is doing as an elected official should—speaking for his constituents. He’s balancing good public relations with politics and scoring points with voters in his district.

But the real showdown at the local level is with the public schools. Thus far, on the subject of masks in the classroom, most everyone is kicking the masked can down the road.

Summer school begins this week in districts all over the state. Those in charge of the largest in Chicagoland, Barrington SD220, said at a June board meeting they were keeping the status quo.

Brian Harris, the retiring superintendent of SD220, said at the board meeting it was “premature” to make any decisions on masking for the 2020-21 school year and that the job of a superintendent is to follow the guidelines set by public health agencies.

That’s certainly been true for Chicagoland superintendents, especially outgoing ones like Harris. Throughout Covid, not one super at a high school north of I-80 has said anything publicly in defiance of public health guidelines. So Harris is staying true to The Code, parachuting out with his $200k pension and likely to set up a retirement residence outside of the state paid for by Illinois taxpayers.

(Not to pick on Harris. I don’t know the man and I’m sure he’s done a good job in his district, removing Covid from the equation. But would it have been that hard for him to say something like, “I know what current public health protocols are. But with where we are now, with what the data tells us, I believe we need to re-examine those protocols and do what is best of the children of District 220 and the state of Illinois.” One definition of leadership is speaking out in the face of injustices. Opportunity missed by Harris.)

According to the Chicago Tribune, one school board member in D220, Steve Wang, lobbied “for a relaxation of the mask requirement for students. He cited emails and a petition signed by hundreds of parents asking district officials to drop the mask requirement.”

But resistance remains the spoils of the day. Not to the overwhelming amount of data we now have that shows transmission of the virus in schools is virtually non-existent, but resistance to any evidence that counters the group think narrative that remains dominate.

That narrative: we can’t do anything until government agencies tell us what to do. So we’ll just punt and talk again in July. And if no guidance then? Be sure to include a cloth mask when packing that bright, shiny new backpack the first day of school in August.

School districts such as D220 in Barrington like to use snappy slogans and tag lines when explaining what they are about, what culture means to them.

Here’s a quote from Harris on the D220 website:

I am proud to lead a nationally recognized school district that inspires all learners to achieve excellence. Our strategic values and innovative programs allow our students to demonstrate strong character, solve problems and collaborate effectively in our global society

I’m sure “all learners” are inspired to “achieve excellence” after what their highest-ranked leader said about masking in 2020-21:

“My opinion for next school year, I think this conversation is premature.”

What Harris is really saying: I’d rather leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

Buy your t-shirts now!


It’s been a long time since I subscribed to Newsweek magazine, or even noticed it on the magazine rack at the grocery store.

But this recent cover was hard to miss:

No, the cover is not a promotion for the “Game of Thrones” prequel currently shooting in the U.K.

It’s fear porn disguised as news. And the mainstream media will relentlessly traffic in fear currency as long as there remains able buyers.

Politicians are reliable patrons of fear currency:

Who is Jesse Ruiz? He’s the Deputy Governor of Illinois.

Ruiz shared the above article on Twitter, an article about the June 4 teen vaccination marketing campaign launched by the CDC. The agency’s selective bias—ginning up anxiety over hospitalization rates while ignoring the 600 teenagers who committed suicide over the same three month period cited by the CDC—is a predictable tactic.

The fact the story was shared by Ruiz (who rarely tweets anything other than retweeting ghostwritten posts from his boss Pritzker) gets to the mindset of government and educational leaders in this state.

Even as we approach the June 11 “reopening” date, they remain closed. And they want the citizenship to comply.

For story ideas, article comments/feedback, media inquiries and more, drop note to jon@jonjkerr.com, or @jonjkerr on Twitter.