Palm Springs, CA

PSUSD School Board hears from mask opponents, can do little to fulfill their requests

The Palm Springs Post
Children attending classes in person throughout California will be required to wear masks when the new school year starts.Kelly Sikkema

Community members concerned about mask requirements for students attending in-person classes in the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) made their concerns known Tuesday evening. There’s little chance their efforts will bring about change.

Eight speakers appeared before the Board during the public comment period of its regular monthly meeting. Half reported living outside the district. None said they currently have children enrolled in its schools. Unlike a July 20 meeting of the Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta, commenters, while passionate about issues they brought up, made no efforts to disrupt the meeting.

“I grew up in this district, so this is very personal for me,” said one Palm Springs resident who spoke to Board members. “I had enrolled my children in this district, but I pulled them from the district when I saw the writing on the wall. Please just think about sending the recommendations back to the governor, as long as he’s still employed. Make it so that it’s not mandatory to make kids wear masks.

“It’s not scientific to make kids wear masks. It’s indoctrinated child abuse to put something over a kid’s face.”

At issue for her and the other speakers are state requirements that students in grades K-12 wear masks to begin the school year to protect them from possible COVID-19 transmission. Aside from claiming those requirements are abusive, speakers Tuesday evening alleged that masks cause breathing issues and other health problems. They also asserted that vaccines are not necessary for school-aged children and are so far not proven to work.

“There are 75 million kids between zero and 18 years old in America,” said John Parker. “In the last one-and-a-half years there have only been 400 deaths in that age range, and yet we’re going to require children to wear masks. Even worse would be to vaccinate them with what is really an experimental drug. It’s not really a vaccine. It hasn’t been approved.”

There is no reliable medical evidence to support claims that wearing masks causes immediate or long-term health issues for children. And while data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the fatality totals touted by Parker, the growing percentage of children becoming infected with COVID-19 is concerning experts. In May, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that children now represent more than 22 percent of new COVID-19 cases in states that release data by age. This time last year, they accounted for only three percent of the cases.

In addition, reports in medical journals, which the CDC has supported, show available vaccines, while still listed as “authorized” and not “approved” by the Food and Drug Administration, are up to 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in those without prior infection.

School Board members thanked the speakers for their input, saying they are always welcome at their meetings. They did not offer any comments of their own, citing meeting rules that prevent them from discussing topics addressed during public comments. No matter what the Board members may think about the issue, however, the state mandate is firmly in place.

“At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said last week in announcing the requirements. “[T]reating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”

On Tuesday, the CDC reversed its earlier recommendations for the general public, saying that fully vaccinated adults and children should wear masks indoors in areas with "high" or "substantial" COVID-19 transmission. Palm Springs and Riverside County officials have not called for mandated indoor mask usage again in public buildings and private businesses. Still, some business owners in the city are asking everyone entering their stores to wear masks. Many say they do not want to take any chance of COVID-19 transmission.

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