BY MIKE FUHRMAN

The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education is running out of time.

The new school year starts on Monday for most I-SS schools — the district’s early college programs and N.B. Mills Elementary have already started classes — and the I-SS board appears content to give the “masks optional” policy it adopted this summer a try.

That’s a huge mistake, and one that could have catastrophic results for our community. Some 240 deaths in Iredell County have been attributed to COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. That’s too many, and all of our governmental agencies should be working to keep that number from rising.

The I-SS board was backed into a corner this summer by a group of parents who have politicized what should be a public health issue. This group pressured the board at several public meetings, saying that the decision to mask or not mask should be up to parents.

While the board gave itself an out by adopting a policy that allows Superintendent Jeff James to change course and require masks if the district is over-run with positive cases of COVID-19, there’s no reason to wait until students, teachers and staff get sick or die to take the appropriate steps to slow the spread of this deadly virus.

Masks should be required from day one.

Mooresville Graded Schools began the school year with a mask-optional approach, but quickly made masking mandatory after very few students wore masks. Mitchell Community College is requiring masks on campus for students and college employees. Most school districts throughout our region are requiring masks as well, and Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHSS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen have asked districts who are not requiring masks to reconsider.

The Delta variant is deadly. Across the nation kids are getting seriously ill, and young adults who did not receive the vaccine are dying. Many of those who get sick but survive will have lasting health issues.

In Iredell County and across the state hospital ICU beds are filling up rapidly. As of Friday afternoon, there are 86 COVID-19 patients in Iredell County hospitals. That marks a dramatic increase from just three weeks ago, when there were only a handful of patients.

Local health officials continue to urge residents who have not been vaccinated to do so in order to protect themselves from serious illness. 

Meanwhile, the CDC’s position on masking in schools is clear — the nation’s leading public health agency recommends “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

The last time I checked no one on the I-SS board is a medical doctor, public health director or an epidemiologist. They don’t know better than federal, state and local public health officials or the medical experts at Iredell Health System, Piedmont HealthCare, Davis Regional Medical Center and Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.

While masks do not prevent the spread of COVID-19, they do slow the spread. Because children ages 12 and under are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, the school board has an obligation to protect them — as well as teachers, staff and older students who may not be able to take the vaccine.

As a community, we cannot and should not accept a public policy that says it’s okay if only a few kids or teachers get really sick and/or die from COVID-19. The school board should take a stand against the politicization of a public health issue and require face masks for all students, teachers and staff when schools open Monday.

Mike Fuhrman is the editor of Iredell Free News and the parent of an I-SS student.

18 thoughts on “Viewpoint: I-SS Board of Education should mandate masks in schools

  1. Mask your kid and I’ll unmask mine. Mask, no mask, vaccinated, unvaccinated doesn’t matter anymore. None of them guarantee that your kid won’t catch it so like already stated mask your own kid or home school where you know your child is “protected” Quoting facts of recent deaths but not breaking down how many of those are or were children under the age of 12 is spreading fear of the Unknown. By masking your child you are hindering their bodies immune system from being able to fight off any bacteria or virus that they may encounter which means your kid already has a higher risk of catching the common cold, flu, upper respiratory illness. Those would be much more likely than Covid. Parents choice allows you the option to mask. It also allows mine to not mask and get the same education without phone calls everyday of my daughter having migraines or an upset stomach. So for as many of you demanding masks there are just as many Of us demanding parents choice.

    • Where did YOU get your medical degree from, Amber??? As far as “parents choice” is concerned, ask any teacher and they’ll tell you all the times parents sent their children to school SICK!!! And there have been cases with parents sending their kids to school even after they tested positive for COVID.

      I don’t need my kids being at the mercy of bad and ignorant parents!!!

      • I’m sorry but instead being condescending, you could be a little bit more reserved. Fact: Masks do not work despite what you believe. 99.9% of masks that people wear are completely useless against a virus. 1. A virus is so small that the only way to see one is with an electron microscope. That means it can easily pass through any cloth or paper mask that people wear. 2. Wearing a mask for a long period of time does have detrimental effects. The mask becomes a bacterial breeding ground on the face from the constantly warm damp air you breathe into it. Which in turn could cause the wearer to develop bacterial pneumonia.

    • Precisely! The Fear Mongering Must Stop! To wear a mask or not should be a choice. This viewpoint is full of unfounded propositions. Americans have the ability to educate themselves and make the right choices for their family. Best Wishes To All The Children This School Year. I Hope You All Learn And Achieve Your Goals and Dreams!

  2. Tip Nicholson says:

    Masking helps stop the spead of the virus to others. If others are infected they in turn can infect others like parents and grandparents. What a great science experiment to teach our kids. Wear the masks for a month and see if it affects the spread.

    • Masking can only help slow the spread to others if the wearer is coughing or sneezing, and it isn’t the only way to not cough or sneeze in someone’s face. If someone that has the virus is not coughing or sneezing, aka asymptomatic, the only ways to potentially spread the virus are through spit from talking or their breath (aerosolized). The mask will prevent spit from getting in someone else’s face (but if the other person is masked, they are themselves protected from spit), but people can also stand far enough apart to keep from spitting in someone else’s face. For the last option of breath (aerosolized), no mask is going to stop breath from coming through the pores of the mask or out of the sides of the mask. You might consider watching this address to a school board by a doctor regarding masks. The link should start it at the appropriate moment, but if not, skip to the 2:49:49 mark. https://youtu.be/DAJAFnuGrQs?t=10189

  3. As previously mentioned, just because the board isn’t requiring kids to mask, parents have to choice to choose that for their children.

    According to data from NCDHHS:
    Since this all began a year and a half ago, there have been either 4 or 5 child deaths in the entire state of NC (NCDHHS says 4 in one place and 5 in another), and I can confirm that 4 of them did NOT occur in Iredell County. As of the last data available on NCDHHS, while children are accounting for about 17-20% of the C19 cases, during the week of 8/10-8/16, they made up an average of 2.4% of the C19 hospitalizations. To date in NC, children’s risk of death from C19 (# of deaths divided by # of cases in that age group) is 0.003%. In contrast, from Oct 2019-May 2020, 5 children in NC died from the flu. During the same time spans (10 month span) starting in 2018, 2017, and 2016, there were 4, 7, and 7 child flu deaths respectively. So, there have been more flu deaths in children in NC over 4 separate 10 month time spans than there have been in 1.5 years of C19.
    We’ve never asked our school boards to mask kids for the more deadly (for children) flu. Yes, there have been 240 reported C19 deaths in Iredell County, an average of 1 death every other day, but to my knowledge, not one of those deaths was a child. Children in Iredell County make up 14% of the overall cases, but 0% of the deaths.

    According to data from CDC:
    Nationwide, there have been 361 C19 child deaths. During the same time period, there have been 53,193 child deaths from ALL CAUSES. The C19 deaths account for 0.68% of the child deaths. Also, there have been 865 children nationwide that have died from pneumonia with only 73 of those being related to C19. That means there have been 792 pneumonia deaths NOT related to C19. What caused those pneumonias? Could some of those be from mask wearing?

    The CDC also reported during the peak of the 2017-2018 flu season that the hospitalization rate for children was 3.4 per 100k. For C19 during the week ending August 7th, the hospitalization rate for children was 1.2 per 100k. The peak of hospitalizations for children for C19 was in January with a rate of 1.5 per 100k. This indicates that flu is still a more severe virus for children.

    Another thing to consider, especially since the risk for children from C19 is extremely low, is do the benefits of masks on children outweigh the risks? There have been no studies to determine the long term effects of long term usage of masks for up to 8 hours a day on children. Masks themselves are under an Emergency Use Authorization.

    From a New York Magazine article published 8/20/21 titled The Science of Masking Kids at School Remains Uncertain, “the pediatric immunologist said, “Even with a new variant, the onus is on those who recommend masking kids to robustly demonstrate a meaningful benefit, especially when the pre-Delta study of the Georgia schools did not find one, and when there are obvious socio-emotional and educational harms from masking children for this unprecedented duration of time.”

    Also from the article, “In the realm of science and public-health policy outside the U.S., the implications of these particular findings are not exactly controversial. Many of America’s peer nations around the world — including the U.K., Ireland, all of Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy — have exempted kids, with varying age cutoffs, from wearing masks in classrooms. Conspicuously, there’s no evidence of more outbreaks in schools in those countries relative to schools in the U.S., where the solid majority of kids wore masks for an entire academic year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. These countries, along with the World Health Organization, whose child-masking guidance differs substantially from the CDC’s recommendations, have explicitly recognized that the decision to mask students carries with it potential academic and social harms for children and may lack a clear benefit. To date, the highly transmissible Delta variant has not led them to change this calculus.”

    The far greater concern for the children of Iredell County is mental health. Are you aware that there have been at least 6 child suicides in the COUNTY over the same period of time?

  4. Scottie Dishmond says:

    Masks do not work. A virus is so small that you have to use a electron microscope just to see it. So it will easily pass through any paper or cloth mask.

  5. Simple, those trying to impose their will on others should be recognized, called out, and stopped. First get your own house in order before trying to control the lives of others. Mike and some of these posters would have been real handy in East Germany. Freedom, folks … freedom.

  6. Bottom line is wear a mask if that is your choice, don’t wear a mask if you prefer.
    I have been hearing my body my choice for years, but many people making that claim are now trying to take that right away when it comes to COVID.

    One thing for certain is that the my body my choice results in a 100% death sentence for an unborn child that has harmed no one. Compare that rate to the number of school age children that have died from COVID.

    Please exercise your freedom of choice on masks or no masks based on your beliefs and scientific data. If wearing a mask truly works, then why would you care that somebody else is not wearing one.

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