Clovis Unified President Steve Fogg subtly told an audience composed of several anti-mask and anti-vaccine parents to get vaccinated.
Choosing his words carefully, not to upset the vocal anti-mask parents in the audience Fogg, an ophthalmologist, noted 78.9 percent of people contract covid at home, and stopping the spread there would make the community safer.
“How do we stop Covid from coming in the home?” Fogg asked rhetorically. “I believe the only way we can stop Covid from coming in the home is get our parents vaccinated.”
The comment did not sit well with some in the audience. A parent wearing a t-shirt with the statement “unmasked, unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid” walked out in protest, waving his right hand in frustration as if saying goodbye to the Board.
“We need to have not just a safe school, but a safe community,” Fogg said. “If we had everyone in our households vaccinated 80 percent, I don’t think we’ll have any Covid at all in our schools.”
A member of the audience mockingly laughed at Fogg’s comment.
“So you gonna mandate it to kids then, right?” another member of the audience retorted.
“I’m trying to keep kids from being hospitalized and dying,” Fogg said.
The unexpectedly sober comment from Fogg, whom some perceived as against masking, came toward the end of the August 11 board meeting, where more than a dozen parents urged the Board to ignore a California Public Health directive that all students and staff must wear masks indoors.
Clovis Unified Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell empathized with the anti-mask parents but made it clear that her school district would not defy the law.
“As a Superintendent, I cannot and will not ask or require our six and a half thousand employees to break the law,” O’Farrell said.
The Board unanimously agreed to comply with the state mandate saying they’re sworn to uphold the law.
Earlier in the meeting, in what appeared to be an effort to appease the anti-mask parents, Fogg asked the Board to look for a loophole around the mandate to provide anti-mask parents with a grace period as they seek doctors to exempt their kids from the directive.
But the idea was immediately shot down by Deputy Superintendent Norm Anderson. He said no such grace periods exist for other students in similar circumstances in the case of other immunizations.
The meeting fielded questions and comments from 16 anti-mask parents incensed by the Board’s reversal of an earlier decision to allow them to exempt their kids from wearing masks at school.
Speaker after speaker gave various reasons for objecting to the mandate. Sean Soares, who wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with an image of former president Donald Trump and a leather vest with a black and white American flag patch in the back, accused the Board of bowing down to pressure from Governor Gavin Newsom.
“These are not laws; they’re guidelines, the legislature makes laws, not the edicts from the Emperor Gavin Newsom,” Sean Soares said in a fiery 3-minute speech. “The California Department of Health has become the CCPH–, Chinese Communist Party Health Department.”
Keeping up the tempo, a second parent denounced the mask requirement and declared his absolute opposition.
“No more mask mandate forever, forever,” said Joey Myers, who was wearing a Gadsden flag-themed Don’t Tread On Me t-shirt displaying a ready-to-strike rattlesnake, common among conservatives.
To illustrate his perceived idiocy of the mask mandate, Myers, who said he’s not a doctor, recounted a meme he saw.
“Imagine a world where there was a 99.7 percent chance that you’d not poop your pants, but you’re forced to wear diapers just in case, and not for you, but for others,” Myers said.
Myers cited America’s Frontline Doctors as the source of his information that masks are not an effective tool in stopping the spread of Covid.
“Disclaimer, I’m not a doctor, unlike a couple of you in here, and I don’t pretend to be one, I’m just a dad with two kids that attend Fort Washington that I’m advocating for,” Myers said before sharing his source of information.
“Sources include America’s Frontline Doctors, doctors that have successfully treated Covid patients,” he said. “And by the way, Fauci is not one of them.”
America’s Frontline Doctors, however, is a discredited organization for pushing dubious Covid treatments. It was founded by Simone Gold, a California doctor who attended Trump’s January 6th rally in Washington DC. Gold was caught on camera giving a speech in the Capitol rotunda after rioters overran security and breached Congress.
AFD is against masking and vaccination and was at the forefront of pushing hydroxychloroquine as an effective therapy for Covid-19 according to the Washington Post.
Scientists say there’s plenty of evidence that masking prevents the spread of Covid-19.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 because studies have shown that face masks reduce the chances of transmitting the deadly respiratory illness.
One real-world example showing masking effectiveness highlighted by the CDC study suggested masking prevented the spread of the virus in an environment of high exposure similar to schools.
“An investigation of a high-exposure event, in which 2 symptomatically ill hair stylists interacted for an average of 15 minutes with each of 139 clients during an 8-day period, found that none of the 67 clients who subsequently consented to an interview and testing developed infection. The stylists and all clients universally wore masks in the salon as required by local ordinance and company policy at the time.”
The California Department of Health issued the new mandate in response to the surging Delta Variant spreading in some parts of the US, especially among unvaccinated Americans.
Children with special needs, however, might find themselves in worse situations.
One parent said her special needs child relies on observing facial expressions to learn.
“He is learning how to socialize, how to read facial expressions and needs to be watching his teacher’s mouth to know how to properly pronounce, imitate, and correct his letter sounds,” the parent said.
For his learning, the mother said, the teacher must see his mouth movements to figure out his learning progress. The mother said she was at a loss of what to do because her child was too young to qualify for independent study, and he risked losing his spot in the program she spent months “jumping through hoops” to be eligible.
Such a case illustrates the complexity of the uniform masking mandate for all students.
The Board did not provide a solution for the mother’s predicament.
Newsom expressed optimism while announcing the mandate at a news conference held on August 11 at Carl B. Munck Elementary in Oakland.
The wording of the measure regarding schools reads as follows:
Universal masking in K-12 settings. Aligned with guidance from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, California was the first state to implement universal masking in school settings to keep students and staff safe while optimizing fully in-person instruction.
“We think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number 1 anxiety that parents like myself have,” Newsom said. “I have four young children, and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe.”
The debate on whether kids should wear or not wear a mask comes at a time when Covid Delta Variant is surging across the country and some hospitals in some states are filled to maximum capacity with mostly unvaccinated covid patients.
O’Farrell is focused. She said she’s not a fan of wearing a mask herself, but the main goal was to get kids back to school.
“Remember, our number one goal is to get our kids back in school. And we’ve had to endure many obstacles, but the one thing we want to do is to get them into our classrooms because we know just being in class, mask or no mask, our children will thrive.”
Board Member Yolanda Moore said while masks are not fun, they’re necessary.
“Nobody likes wearing masks. ‘But, is it necessary?’ I think yes,” Moore said. “This is a public health issue. Just because you’re being cautious does not mean you’re fearful. And if my personal choice maybe puts my friends in danger, I kind of have to look outside not to make that personal choice; I think that’s how people should look at the issue of wearing a mask.”
Only 5 percent of CUSD parents applied for the mask exemption. Several board members said parents are bombarding them with email messages arguing both sides of the issue.
“There are as many people as you’re on the other side,” Trustee Susan K. Hatmaker said. “We have received numerous, countless emails from individuals who (are) on both sides of this issue.”
Fogg expressed dismay at the parents’ anti-mask position.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Hey, you know what, my kid has to wear a mask? I’m not sending him to school.’ But I sure think that’s short-sighted — really, over a mask?” Fogg said.
The measure–first in the nation– directly affects students, teachers and school workers, healthcare workers, and state workers. It also imposes a mask recommendation for all Californians in indoor public settings regardless of their vaccination status.
In his press conference, Newsom said Californians could end COVID in a month.
“This disease now is a choice. The one thing that can end this disease once and for all is available in abundance to everybody. And that’s the vaccine” Newsom, who is facing a recall election on September 14, said. “It will not only save your lives but allow us to sustainably keep our kids back in in-person instruction, keep our economy moving, and support our small businesses.”
He declared taking the vaccine the most patriotic thing you could do toward your fellow American.