Northern California parent walked into the elementary school of his daughter and punched a teacher over rules regarding masks. A Texas parent tore a teacher's mask during a Meet the Teacher event.
This week, a man from Alabama approached a Missouri hospital leader in a parking lot and handed him papers accusing the Missourian of "crimes against mankind." It wasn't the first encounter about vaccines and masks. At meetings and public gatherings, school board members, county commissioners and doctors are often confronted with angry taunts. They are often compared to the Taliban, Nazis and Marxists.
Anti-vaccine, anti-mask protests are taking frightening and violent turns across the country. Teachers, doctors, and other public figures have been shocked at the extent to which they have been mocked for speaking out. They are also terrified at the extent to which protesters will confront leaders in their own homes and at work.
Shannon Portillo, a Kansas county commissioner, said that the heat had "definitely got turned up this week." The board also mandated indoor masks for unvaccinated children at its meeting Wednesday. "It became much more hostile than any other thing I had ever seen."
The pandemic has been accompanied by an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases, and a growing movement for vaccines and a new round mask requirements. This is most noticeable in schools, where families were hoping the worst was over. The country now has nearly 1,000 deaths from coronavirus per day.
In rural Amador County, Northern California, anger over masks has been simmering for some time. It reached its peak when a teacher was attacked earlier in the month. The father was furious when his daughter came out of school in a mask, but the teachers in the lounge were not. Torie Gibson, Amador County Unified Schools District Superintendent, stated that vaccinated staff can remove their masks when students are not present. He was informed and then left. However, he returned to the principal to discuss it later.
An concerned teacher of male students went to the office of the principal. The father then attacked the teacher after an argument.
Gibson stated that the teacher had lacerations, bruising and a knot on his back.
He was taken to a hospital for treatment and then returned to work the next day. Teachers and the community are still shaken by the incident.
Teachers have been very nervous. Gibson stated that they are afraid because they don't want to have an argument with their parents. They looked over their shoulders for a while, but now things seem a bit calmer.
The father could be arrested if he continues to block his son from the school.
Hawaii has announced that all county and state workers must show proof of vaccination. Since then, approximately 50-100 unmasked vaccine critics have been gathering almost every night outside the Honolulu condo building where Lt. Governor. Josh Green lives in Honolulu with his wife, Josh Green and their two children, aged 14 and 10.
Green stated that some people shout into bullhorns, while others shine strobe light into apartments. Placards with Green's photo and the words "Jewish" and "fraud," were placed around the area. Green, a Jewish man, has been taking them down and turning them in to the state attorney general's.
He is aware of the right to protest but does not understand why demonstrators are subject to such rage bystanders.
Green stated, "They should protest my actions at my place of employment, where I'm lieutenant governor." It's not the same as flashing a lightbulb into a home of a 90-year old woman or into a home where there are two children under 4 years.
Green was not home during the recent protests. He was working as an emergency doctor on the Big Island, treating COVID-19 patients in the midst of a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations.
He said, "I will personally take care of these people in the hospital when they become sick from refusing masks or refusing to get vaccinated."
Kansas commissioners from Douglas County, Lawrence, were confronted Wednesday by an angry crowd. They decided to mandate indoor public masks for children aged 2-12 years old who are too young to get vaccinated. During the four-hour period of public comment, opponents used the Holocaust, Taliban, and Japanese internment camps as justifications.
Portillo, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, was furious at the comparisons.
She said, "It's really offensive to families all across the world who have lost loved ones in genocides."
Although researchers, professors, and political experts may have different opinions on why the discourse is continuing to plummet over the pandemics, many agree that social media is an important factor.
Barbara Rosenwein is a Loyola University Chicago professor emerita and the author of "Anger. The Conflicted Histories of an Emotion." She said that social media can make minorities' views more like the majority. People can validate one another's anger on many social media platforms as coming from a righteous and just place.
"Over time, the possibility to feel righteous anger has become more accessible." Rosenwein stated that everyone feels almost obligated feel it. "That puts you in a position that won't allow for compromises, which is horrible for our country."
This anger makes it acceptable to defy authority, such as teachers or government, in a culture war on education topics. She said that being punished or even arrested could feel like "a badge to courage".
Rosenwein stated that he doesn't believe these people are running to old-age homes telling granny she shouldn't get vaccinated. "I believe they are telling school teachers, because teachers are an elite who's teaching their children."
Rosenwein stated that there is no one-size-fits all solution for talking to someone who might be anti-mask or anti-vaccine to extreme levels.
Rosenwein stated, "You must start from where they are."
Dr. Cadey Harrel is a Tucson-based family physician who was one of four health care workers that testified for mask mandates at the local school board meeting earlier in the month. Although her children were recently moved out of the school district, she felt compelled nonetheless to speak. After the meeting, a four- or five-member anti-mask group followed them out of that building.
Harrel stated that they started to say things like "We were paid actors, we were there, that masks don’t work", Harrel added. "They were getting in our faces."
Harrel felt unnerved, but she felt better after some teachers thanked her for speaking. She was motivated to continue testifying before public meetings, despite all the outrage and opposition from vaccine and mask advocates.
She said, "The fact is that somebody has to speak up."