About 25 parents joined the Orange Board of Education meeting on Monday to hear the conversation about COVID-19 and the district’s mask mandate. Several parents spoke up, voicing their support of the policy or asking the board to lift the mandate.
On Aug. 5, Superintendent Lynn Campbell informed the district of a mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors while indoors and on school buses, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required when people are outside, such as recess. Dr. Campbell said the mask mandate will be reevaluated in October.
On Sunday, he sent another letter to parents regarding quarantine procedures for people who are a “close contact.” A person is considered a close contact if he or she spent a cumulative 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 in a 24-hour period. Close contacts who are vaccinated do not need to be quarantined as long as they do not develop symptoms. Close contacts who are unvaccinated need to be quarantined, unless the contact occurred in a classroom or on a bus where universal masking protocols are in place and the infected individual was at least 3 feet away.
“I appreciate that you all want to ensure the health of our children. We all want to keep our children safe. I, above all else, want to keep my child safe,” Tyler Klein of Moreland Hills told the school board on Monday. “But this is not a typical measles, mumps or rubella vaccine. There are over 13,000 vaccine deaths and almost 600,000 related injuries. Highly qualified, respected doctors, virologists, pathologists, they’ve all come out against these vaccines, talking about the long term health implications, which we don’t even know about yet.”
According to Dr. Campbell’s policy on quarantines, unvaccinated close contacts who are closer than 3 feet for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period on a bus or in the classroom will need to be quarantined. Under all other circumstances, unvaccinated close contacts will need to be quarantined, including instances where contact occurred during lunch, after school activities and athletics.
Moreland Hills resident Brian Lenzo spoke at the Aug. 9 school board meeting and cited a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which measured unusually high carbon dioxide levels in students wearing masks. The study was retracted, but Mr. Lenzo said that does not change his opinion that masks do not work. He is not an “anti-vaxxer” but would like more time to determine what the long-term health effects may be, he said on Monday.
“This is a false comparison to say ‘Oh, well we don’t know anything about the long-term effects of the vaccine.’ When the reality is, we know equally little or perhaps less about the long-term effects of the disease that people are afraid of being treated,” according to Dr. Jeff Goshe, an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic who lives in Moreland Hills.
Carolyn Jillson of Moreland Hills said that the school board has had a difficult task this past year as people ask them to evaluate science, politics and policy. She said that they should trust the public health experts and use their time and energy to educate children in the Orange schools.
Two people spoke in favor of the mask mandate and five were opposed to the mandate or vaccines, stating that masks do not work and children are not adversely impacted by COVID-19. They named various negative health effects of masks, such as difficulty learning and increased anxiety and depression.
Although the state will not mandate a COVID-19 dashboard for school districts this year, Dr. Campbell said that Orange will still keep theirs. As of Monday, the first day of school, there was one active student case of COVID-19 at Moreland Hills Elementary School. There is also one student quarantined at Brady Middle School and one at Orange High School.
“We did make it known to our parents that if they want, for contact tracing purposes, they can voluntarily share with us their vaccination information. We can’t require that, but parents did start to submit to the middle school and high school nurses their vaccination record, like they do [with] other vaccination records,” the superintendent said. “So, if a contact tracing situation were to occur, it would help us to know sooner whether or not a child is vaccinated, because as was stated earlier, that would impact whether or not an individual has to quarantine.”
Dr. Campbell said he continues to have biweekly meetings with other local superintendents and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health for the latest guidance. Board member Beth Wilson-Fish clarified that the board does not vote on policies such as masking and quarantine protocols. They rely on recommendations from Dr. Campbell and his COVID-19 response team, she said.