The California Supreme Court on Wednesday quickly dismissed a petition from the Orange County Board of Education in its effort to overturn Governor Gavin Newsom’s school mask mandate – just eight days after their application was filed.
A spokesperson for the governor’s press office told Voice of OC in an email on Thursday that the state’s goal is to get children safely back to class using strategies such as universal masking.
“The Supreme Court rejecting this effort to obstruct further reaffirms the state’s strategy,” read a statement by Alex Stack, deputy director of communications for Newsom.
The education council filed the petition on August 10, saying the mask’s mandate had no “solid medical or scientific basis.”
âAbove all, the Council also recognizes the importance of keeping our children safe in school and free from policies or practices that will cause them harm. If necessary, the Council will fight to protect the health, safety and well-being of our county’s children at school, âread an August 3 press release.
[ Read:OC Board of Education Looking to Sue Gov. Newsom Over Classroom Mask Mandate ]
The council’s position contrasts sharply with that of local public health experts.
At an Aug. 12 press conference called by County Supervisor Katrina Foley, Dr Coleen Cunningham – a leading pediatrician at the Orange County Children’s Hospital – said students and staff should wear masks in schools.
“People are going to point fingers last year and say there were very few outbreaks, well because there were very few in-person schools where no one wore masks,” a- she declared.
Cunningham, who also chairs UC Irvine’s pediatrics department, said COVID-19 could spread like the flu in schools if no precautions are taken.
âWe know that if you watch the flu every year, you start to see it increasing in children before you start to see it increasing in older people,â Cunningham said. “We know that the first group to release it in the community are usually the children.”
She said without security measures COVID outbreaks occur.
âWhat we are seeing from this year is that when people start to reunite children without masks and without distancing, we start to have outbreaks of COVID,â Cunningham said.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of immunization status.
At least four school districts in Texas have closed due to COVID outbreaks, the Associated Press reported.
Texas Governor Greg Abbot has banned mask warrants in schools statewide.
Similar epidemic trends are occurring in Florida school districts, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to suspend funding to schools for mask terms, according to the Washington Post.
Locally, all school staff will either need to prove they are vaccinated or undergo a weekly testing regimen, per a statewide mandate from California health official Dr. TomÃ¡s AragÃ³n.
Coronavirus hospitalizations have increased across the OC following an increase in the number of cases after the statewide reopening on June 15 that ended most pandemic restrictions.
As of Thursday, 571 people were hospitalized, including 133 in intensive care units, according to the county health agency.
Orange County is also sitting on an 8% positivity rate.
The virus has now killed 5,169 people, including 28 new deaths reported this month, so far.
The total number of COVID deaths is nearly five times as many people as the flu kills in two years, on average.
Orange County has averaged about 20,000 deaths per year since 2016, including 543 annual deaths from the flu, according to state health data.
The Education Council isn’t the only group challenging the state’s school mask mandate.
âLet Them Breathe,â a parent group, along with Reopen California Schools, filed a lawsuit against the mask’s warrant in July.
The parent group rallied in some school districts in Orange County and other districts across the state, lobbying their elected officials to make masks optional.
Some parents and students in the area have also shown up at recent school board meetings calling for masks to be optional.
[ Read: OC Schools to Follow Mask Mandate as COVID Surges, Some Parents Rally Against Rule ]
Earlier this year, the county school board passed a resolution urging the state to allow optional masks for children.
Some school districts have adopted similar resolutions themselves, such as the Unified School Districts of Saddleback Valley, Capistrano and Placentia-Yorba Linda.
The state Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit comes as Orange County schools reopen in person for the fall semester.
At a press conference Thursday, Pamela Kahn, health coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education, said no one other than the state could change the mask’s mandate.
“We are obligated and we follow the guidelines, recommendations and regulations of the California Department of Public Health,” she said.
Khan also said that up to 75% of school workers have been vaccinated.
OC’s Department of Education oversees the county’s 28 school districts, while OC’s board of directors consists of five elected members who hold public meetings and each member represents different areas of county government.
The only powers vested in the County Board of Education are the final approval of the Department of Education budget and the purchase of goods.
Individual districts control their own curricula and budgets – approved by the county education department.
Kahn said there had not been “a lot of trouble” getting children to wear masks and recommends wearing double-layered fabric masks.
“Most of our children accept it and parents recognize the importance of it,” she said.
Kahn also said waivers from wearing a mask at school must be granted by a doctor.
“Children who have a doctor’s exemption that they cannot wear masks for some reason decided by the doctor, we require these children to wear some kind of face shield with a sheet at the bottom,” he said. she declared.
The Medical Board of California on Wednesday issued a warning against bogus exemptions.
“… a physician who grants a mask or other exemption without conducting an appropriate screening and without finding a legitimate medical reason for such an exemption under the standard of care may subject his license to disciplinary action,” reads. one in a press release from the Medical Council.
Hosam Elattar is a member of Voice of OC Reporting. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.