Guest Opinion: September 1, 2021 Special Session – Masking

Published 11:04 pm Sunday, September 12, 2021

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By Susan Bothwell

Editor’s note: This prepared statement was read by Susan Bothwell at the Sept. 1, 2021 Board of Education meeting.

I have written, rewritten and rewritten again my thoughts, so please allow me to just read them.

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The reason I seconded the motion is because it needs to be discussed. That won’t happen if there is no second.

I am not an anti-vaxer nor an anti-masker. What I believe is yes there should be choice, but those choices have to be made with information. And the information out there is all over the place. Health experts don’t agree, studies don’t agree, parents don’t agree. So what do you believe? Which “science” do you trust?

And what is the ultimate goal here? And do all the different parties have the same goal?

According to the Director, the goal of Dare DHHS is two-fold – to reduce the risk of transmission AND keep the kids in school, as they know being in school is best for the overall wellbeing of the children.

I’m sure most have read Dr. Dwyer’s letter as well as Mr. Sloan’s. What is their goal? Dr. Dwyer wants masks until the virus is under control. What does that mean? This virus is never going away – it’s a virus. It will forever mutate just like any virus does. If masks are the only thing that will save lives, then everyone should be wearing masks all the time. However, the only truly safe masks are the N95 masks. The paper and cloth masks are not especially effective. They only filter out about 10% of particulates. Yes, they work to some extent, but what about the other effects? Psychological, skin issues, breathing issues, not being able to see a teacher’s mouth movements when learning phonics and another language, special needs children not being able to judge facial expression, the list goes on.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier.

There is only one single retrospective study done and the results were inconclusive on whether masks reduce COVID transmissions in children. Yet the CDC said that all should mask and they do no harm. So what about myopia and fogged glasses, severe acne and other skin problems, discomfort distracts from learning. Masks can be vectors for pathogens if they become moist or used too long.

The CDC reported the week of July 31st the hospitalization rate for COVID for children between the ages of 5-17 was .5 per 100,000 – roughly 250 patients. They also acknowledged that not all these children were in the hospital for COVID.

Masks will not halt this virus, but I suppose they can slow it.

The Board of Education’s goal, as I see it, is to have the kids in school with face to face learning. That is where they are most apt to succeed. If Health and Human Services quarantines an entire classroom if one unmasked child tests positive, that defeats our goal of having the kids in school learning instead of going virtual. To be clear, DHHS has the ultimate say so regarding quarantining. In my opinion, quarantine guidelines need to be reevaluated and reconsidered. They are too restrictive and too long.

I have received dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls and read the 66 pages of comments that were sent in – all with different stories and pleas. To those of you that were kind and thoughtful in voicing your opinions, I can’t thank you enough. I feel as if I am on a teeter totter. This decision does not come easily and many of you will be disappointed, one way or the other. Of the dozens of emails and phone calls, there is not a significant difference in those for and those against mandated masking. For those of you who believe this is a political issue for this board, please reconsider. I don’t believe it is. I think all stakeholders from Dr. Farrelly and his staff, the teachers and school staffs, the parents, and all of this board truly want the kids to succeed and grow and learn. In any case, whatever is decided here tonight, it will be discussed again every meeting due to the bill the governor’s signed yesterday.

I thank everyone for their patience, and your understanding of how difficult a decision this is.

Please be kind to one another.

Susan Bothwell is a Dare County Board of Education member.