Serena Williams, one of the most highly decorated athletes of all time, is one of many celebrities taking public health into her own hands during the COVID-19 crisis. On Sunday August 9th, the tennis star announced on her Instagram that she’s teaming up with clothing company Bella Canvas, publishing company Scholastic Inc, and the National School Board Association to donate 4.25 million masks to underserved schools around the country. Additionally, the team-up, going by the hashtag #MasksForKids, wants to distribute educational materials about masks to every schoolchild in the country.
Schools will also be able to buy additional masks for students, with a mask donated for every mask sold, on top of that initial 4+ million.
“Getting back to school this fall means having #masksforkids to wear,” Williams wrote. “I’m grateful to be able to help educate our schools about this resource, and to be given the opportunity to serve so many students.”
While scientists almost universally agree that children in the U.S. should not be going back to school in person this fall at all, in many states, classes have already begun. For instance, in Georgia, schools began in the first week of August. North Paulding High School, where a student’s pictures of crowded, maskless hallways went viral after she was suspended for taking them, has already seen nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in both students and staff.
If students are going to be back in class, despite these risks, they must be given masks. And the wearing of them must be enforced, along with education of why it is so important to do so. Too many Americans simply don’t or won’t understand that wearing a mask is an act of compassion, not a sign of fear. Education is the key to moving past the politicization we’ve seen these past few months and stopping this pandemic from spreading even further.