Medical Advisory Committee and Mask Up OCPS Support Universal Masks

October 12, 2021

The School Board's Medical Advisory Committee has been an essential and respected voice in making decisions regarding keeping students and employees safe  in our schools during the pandemic. Another respected voice is that of the Mask Up OCPS parent group. CTA thanks the MAC and Mask Up Orlando for their advocacy!

If you didn't have a chance to watch the Medical Advisory Committee meeting last week, CTA staff taped it and you can watch it on our Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/OCCTA7448/videos/195913325948250 .

The Mask Up OCPS group took quotes from the physicians that mirror our efforts to keep a universal mask mandate in place as long as the positivity rate is over 5% and students age 12 and under are not eligible for a vaccine. 

Below are the OCPS Medical Advisory Committee members in their own words:

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From Mask Up Orlando a compilation of the quotes:

Dr. Adriana Cadilla

“I commend the Board for taking a stand and doing what’s right because one death is one death too many.”

“When you look at the state of Florida, in July we had seven deaths in children up to that point in the pandemic. Since July we have tripled that number to 24 deaths of children under the age of 16.”

“In the United States children under the age of 18 make up 22.4% of the population; however, the week ending Sept 30 that same age group made up 26.7% of all US Covid-19 cases.”

“Our duty is to provide the safest environment to the children that we serve. So, I thank you for continuing to listen to medical reasoning and experts.”

Dr. Michael Muszynski

“With the latest studies we have now gone from a piecemeal collection of data and evidence that face masks work well in preventing the spread of COVID in schools, to now, in my opinion, unequivocal evidence that masks work. And, masks are an integral part of the layering protection that you can provide children in school. It also shows that mandated masking is what works- not piecemeal masking.”

“We’re about halfway there to our 80-85% vaccination goal to keep the virus at bay in the 12 and up population inside the schools. Halfway is almost as good as no way because the rest of the group that are unvaccinated will be viable hosts to the virus without any question.”

“The Physician’s Society of Central Florida has come out this week to strongly recommend continuing mask mandates until we understand this virus better going into the first of 2022P.”

“Once again we are faced with the same question we faced in June: Should we mandate masks because things are way down?”

“It’s a chain of prevention, and the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you let part of the link break, then you let the virus have an opportunity. I don’t know why we would contemplate taking away mitigation measures that we have shown work in our schools and risk having things go back to the way they were.”

“We’re not Belgium. We’re the United States. You cannot compare apples to oranges. Those comparisons are made all the time, and they don’t hold much scientific weight. You have to look at your numbers locally. In the United States 27% of Covid cases are under the age of 18, and that number is climbing. It was under 20% a month ago. So, Covid is still a hotbed in children.”

“We have someone in State leadership position saying, ‘The best immunity against Covid is getting Covid.’ Now, if that makes sense to you, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. The best immunity against a potentially deadly disease is to get it? We would purposely let people get it? We want more people to get it so we can build up herd immunity? That is just a bad idea.”

“These new rules for quarantine by the State make my head spin and left me breathless in its mind-boggling illogic. Here’s a fact: an asymptomatic, infected child is just about as infectious as a symptomatic one. To base quarantine decisions on symptoms only, means you’re going to miss anywhere from 25-30% of cases that are asymptomatic, but just as infectious. It makes absolutely no sense.”

“This is the first time in the history of our state where we are allowing parents to set public health policies and decisions. This is a pandemic- a public health emergency- still, and we can’t have those kinds of options. They won’t work.”

“It was all done under the guise of freedom of choice. But, freedom of choice is a tricky thing. It does not give you the choice to harm others, and that’s what this rule has the potential to do especially when our case rate per 100,000 is still very high.”

“Although their rates are often equal or better than adults. Children DO get COVID. Children DO get hospitalized. And, children die. We don’t want any of that happening to our children. That is where we stand.”

Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi

“The vulnerable population is the unvaccinated population. The kids (under 12) are all susceptible because they are unvaccinated. The mask mandate as a process to control the spread is important. We absolutely need to make sure we protect this population.”

“The pish posh things you’re being asked to do [by the state government] defies logic.”

“Look at every single peak we’ve had from the beginning. Probably the biggest thing that has made a difference in every peak is people’s attitudes towards masking. As soon as people put their masks back on, the numbers just start plummeting, and they keep plummeting until we take the masks off. Then, the numbers start going back up.”

“I know of at least two families where the children brought home Covid and now there is a deceased parent or grandparent. The acceptable death rate due to Covid, for me, is zero. I refuse to allow people to become a statistic to a disease we didn’t know existed 20 months ago. So, if it means wearing a mask until we figure it out, or we get positivity numbers in the community below 5% or lower before we take off these masks, then that’s what it has to be.”

Dr. Annette Nielsen

“Yesterday I admitted a 17-year-old into the ICU of a local pediatric hospital because a younger sibling brought COVID home after exposure in the lunchroom, and now that 17-year-old has a significant challenge ahead of him.”

“I am very grateful and very thankful that the mask mandate is still going on at this point.”

Dr. Vincent Hsu

“I have children that are students here. I know families with children that are under 12 and unvaccinated that have had exposures in the classroom, and I believe because of the mask mandate many of the ‘exposed’ were able to avoid getting infected.”

“Everything we do here is a risk versus a benefit. This committee overwhelming feels that the benefits of universal, mandatory masks outweigh the potential risks or disadvantages at this point.”

(Answering Jenkins’ question on how to best approach the second part of the Emergency Rule that allows for parents to choose whether or not to quarantine a child as long as they remain asymptomatic and have not tested positive)

“The CDC still recommends quarantine and there is not advice at this time above quarantine and testing for what to do after exposure. If there was a provision that a child can go back to school after exposure wearing a mask, plus some sort of testing provision done on a periodic basis, then that would be a safer route than not testing at all.”

Dr. Brian Harris

“We have had two primary surges here. Basically, it’s the same pattern that has happened. We put all these mandates in place. Then, the surge starts to come down. We relax, and what happens is that it starts to surge again. One thing we know, this is a very stubborn virus- it keeps adapting and creating new variants that are more contagious and more burdensome to the healthcare system and community. It does not make sense to take our foot off the gas at this point to protect our children and staff.”

Dr. Omayra Mansfield

“If the idea is to actually have children more in the classroom- to prevent the number of kids out for illness or quarantine- it defies logic that we would allow children that are clearly exposed and unmasked to be around children that wouldn’t otherwise be exposed if a mask mandate were in place.”

Dr. Regan Schwartz

(Answering Jenkins’ question on how to best approach the second part of the Emergency Rule that allows for parents to choose whether or not to quarantine a child as long as they remain asymptomatic and have not tested positive)

“We know that social distancing in the classroom is not ideal. I think masks must be mandated for any exposed child that comes back to school at a minimum in addition to testing.”

“I think it’s incumbent on us as parents, as physicians, as a Board to protect our kids because they can’t protect themselves. We are still seeing very sustained volume in our pediatric ICUs.”