As the Wilson County School Board prepares to meet tonight and discuss COVID-19 mitigation strategies, a group of parents, doctors, and concerned citizens is calling on the Board to adopt a universal mask mandate. The call for a mandate comes in the wake of a surge of COVID cases in Wilson County and recent school closures in the district as a result of COVID spread.
Wilson County students returned to the classroom after a 10-day break during which time there was no online learning available, interrupting students’ education at the beginning of the year.
Right now, in Wilson County, at least 1 in 5 people tested are infected with COVID. Over the past 14 days, 579 students have tested positive for COVID, and thousands more have had to quarantine.
“Our children want to be in school,” said Laura Maben, a Wilson County parent and board certified family nurse practitioner. “My child wants to be with friends.”
Ms. Maben, who also provides health care as an emergency room nurse, continued, “I am asking the Wilson County School Board to protect the students they are charged to care for! Otherwise, parents will be left to deal with this pandemic on their own as schools open and close, children are left without virtual learning support, and parents are forced to juggle work schedules or miss work entirely.”
Tennessee has led the nation in daily new positive cases per 100,000, surpassing numbers not even seen during the highest points of the pandemic.
Caroline Cooper Huddleston, also a Wilson County parent of an elementary school student, added, “Around the world, people are looking at us, the Volunteer State, where we pride ourselves on caring for one another, and asking ‘how on earth did this happen?’”
Ms. Huddleston also leads a parent group, Wilson County Parents for Truth. “In Tennessee, school districts have had to contend with constantly changing and obfuscated guidance from Gov. Bill Lee and the Departments of Health and Education,” she said.. “They have been left to interpret changing signals veiled behind politically motivated statements. I do not envy the position school districts in our state are in.“However, for the Wilson County school board to use the lack of guidance as an excuse for not strengthening virus mitigation policies is simply unacceptable,” Ms. Huddleston concluded.
Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, MD, MPH, a primary care physician, said, “All children deserve to be safe in school, no exceptions. We know how to do this. As a trained healthcare provider, I, along with 6,300 other colleagues across the state, strongly oppose Governor Lee’s Executive Order 84 allowing parents to opt-out of masking for their students. Scientific evidence demonstrates that masks can decrease the spread of COVID-19. Scientific evidence demonstrates that children can be infected with COVID-19 and that children can spread the infection to adults.
“I strongly urge the Wilson County School Board to put children’s safety and wellbeing first,” continued Dr. Bono. “If Governor Lee will not step up and lead in this crisis by rescinding his Executive Order, then I am asking the Wilson County School Board to follow the lead of other school districts in Tennessee who have defied the Governor’s order in order to protect the kids they are charged to care for. Will you stand with our children and children’s hosptials like St. Jude and the thousands of health professionals telling you what you need to do to keep all kids safe in school, no exceptions? Or will you continue to stand against us and put children and their families in harms way?”
Ms. Maben added, “I understand and empathize with the desire to ’get back to normal.’ But, our best chance at doing that, particularly with our youngest children who can’t yet be vaccinated, is universal masking to decrease the spread of infection, protect the health and safety of our children and our community, and keep our schools open safely.”
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