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COVID-19 isn't over yet. Here's why you should get vaccinated ASAP

This letter from GL's editor Karen Bokram appears in our October/November 2021 issue. The opinions expressed here are her own...

We don't know her name, but we know she was 13. And that she was an eighth grader at Raleigh High School in Mississippi. We know she was an honor student who played in the band. And, according to her school superintendent, "she was one of the best kids we ever had."

Classes at Raleigh High had just started a couple weeks earlier. It was a Thursday when she told her mother she wasn't feeling well. Her mom kept her home. On Friday, she tested positive for COVID-19. On Saturday morning, as she was being airlifted to a hospital in Jackson, the state's capital, she passed away. She was the fifth kid to die of COVID in Mississippi and one of 423 nationwide.

When her school year started, masks weren't required in class. Matter of fact, Mississippi's governor, Tate Reeves, called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask guidance "foolish" and "harmful," saying that "it has nothing to do with rational science," and that in Mississippi "we believe in freedom."

While her school now mandates masks, during the week she died, her school district reported 104 cases of COVID with 659 people quarantining. The district serves around 2,600 students.

Everything I just told you is a fact. Here's another fact: As we go to press, teens are the fastest-growing demographic for COVID cases.

I'll say this as directly as I can: Masking helps reduce your chances of catching COVID. Vaccinations have been proven to be safe and effective. Yes, even for teens. And almost all the COVID deaths we're seeing are people who didn't get fully vaccinated.

Now here's my opinion. Politicians who say that masks and vaccinations aren't effective aren't telling the truth. And the likely reason they're saying things they know aren't true is that they're trying to protect their political futures—not you.

There is zero doubt that COVID has only served to further polarize our divided nation. Polarizing a pandemic feels insane to me. When this all started, I naively thought the whole country, maybe even the whole world, would unite around our common enemy: this horrible disease. Nope.

Instead, we had a president who made a point to not wear a mask (until he got COVID and received life-saving treatment while hundreds of thousands of others died). Now we have governors like Reeves, who deny science, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who went so far as to issue an executive order banning schools from requiring masks. (At press time, it was announced that he tested positive for COVID.)

It's one thing for politicians to tell adults what to do. Because, hey, if a grown-up doesn't like what the other person "in charge" decides? They get to tell them to take a hike with their vote.

But here's the thing: Teens *don't* get that option. You can't vote, and yet you're being put in danger by policies that are most likely pure politics—enacted by people who care more about their future in office than about your life.

If you aren't currently taking steps to protect yourself against COVID, I want you to put down this magazine and go right now to this link for a list of trusted resources that will give you unbiased information on how to keep you (and the people you love) healthy.

I realize that this might be asking a lot. I know that there are families who don't believe in masking or vaccines. That there are friends, teachers, coaches and leaders who say masking and vaccines won't combat COVID. But I also know that it is 1000% your right to advocate for your health above all else.

XOXO, Karen

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our October/November 2021 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

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by GL | 9/10/2021
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