On Tuesday, a majority of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution that advocates for California public health officials to allow school districts and parents to decide their own mask requirements for children attending in-person school.
In a letter to the board, Chairman Tom Patti said his reasoning behind the resolution is that studies have shown that children are less likely to transmit and less likely to develop COVID-19 symptoms compared to adults.
His letter also states that the wearing of masks could disproportionately impact children who are hearing-impaired or those who are attempting to learn English as a second language.
California Department of Public Health guidance requires adults and K-12 students to wear a mask while indoors at a school. Masks are optional while outdoors.
Patti and fellow board members Chuck Winn, Robert Rickman, and Miguel Villapudua said mandating children to wear face coverings in school settings strips parents of their parental rights when it comes to mask decisions.
However, Supervisor Kathy Miller said she did not oppose masks on school campuses because many members of her urban community school districts have accepted the mask mandate in order to keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic.
“I have overwhelmingly received information from my constituents supporting in-person instruction and masks … it’s a small price to pay to keep kids and staff healthy,” Miller said.
In addition to the mask mandate discussion, the board had a COVID-19 update presentation by San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Maggie Park.
Park said the county’s current case rate is 25.6 per 100,000 people and has increased since the reopening of the state on June 15 when the case rate was 3.2.
The county said the current testing positivity rate is almost at 9 percent and 163 people are hospitalized, with 39 in intensive care units.
“A month ago, we had 33 people in the hospital and now we are at 163,” Park said.
Following the COVID-19 presentation, various parents as well as the supervisors voiced their concerns about the information being given by San Joaquin County Public Health officials about COVID-19 and the mask mandate at schools.
Rickman said it’s time the county and its public health officials start doing their own research to gather county data on COVID-19 rather than relying on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for data and answers about the virus.
Rickman said the county should have more information on masks, such as how effective they are and the effects they have on people.
“If we are going to make policy and mandate things, then we should have the data behind it,” Rickman said.