Oregon: School board hears of higher rates of COVID-19

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the area have caused several local school districts to implement a mask mandate as students returned to school from their summer recess.
        Health care professionals are seeing a rise in cases among children, who are quickly filling up hospital beds.
        “We all thought we would be way over and done with it by now,” Dr. Bruce Barnett, a practicing pediatric specialist, said at an Oregon school board meeting on Tuesday. “After March, the numbers looked really good. Then out of the clear blue came the Delta variant, which is basically a different strain than the original strain of COVID-19. We now know it is more contagious. It’s not any more powerful, but much more spreadable than the previous strains. It spreads easily among our children.
        Across the country and across the State of Ohio, there has been a spike in mental health conditions that go along with COVID-19, he said.
        “We’ve seen a spike in depression, anxiety, and suicide. Our mental health beds are full. We don’t have enough. And it started back up with the beginning of school. There is not just a medical side to it, but there’s also the social side of it,” said Barnett.
Higher volumes
        “Generally speaking, in the children’s hospital, our summer months are quieter with fewer admissions,” said Paula Grieb, chief nursing officer, ProMedica Metro Region, said at the meeting. “This year, it’s been the exact opposite. Starting in the second week of July, we started seeing exceptionally higher volumes of respiratory illnesses. We usually see that in the months of November, December, January, February and March. We were seeing that in July, which is unheard of for us. We continue to see that. It remains very high in the children’s hospital. We have over 100 kids on a daily basis, many with respiratory symptoms. Last week, for the first time, we had five admitted kids with COVID-19. Our emergency centers, our urgent cares, our physician practices, are overwhelmed with volumes. Part of our emergency response system for Lucas County, for the first time ever, in anyone’s memory, all of our Lucas County Emergency Departments were on EMS bypass at the same time last week. That has never happened before. Purely volume related. In the emergency department, we are overwhelmed.”
        She said 12.7 percent of children in Northwest Ohio tested positive for COVID-19 a few days before the board meeting, a rate that was “markedly higher” than before.
        “Right now, we’re running about 14 percent. Roughly, four weeks ago, our positivity rate was 8.4 percent. Four weeks prior to that, we had a positivity rate of about 3 percent, so we’re seeing markedly increasing numbers of kids actively infected with COVID-19,” she said.
        “What’s mildly terrifying for us, we haven’t hit winter season yet. We haven’t hit flu season yet. So think about being at this capacity now before true flu season hits, usually sometime mid-October to November. It’s a bit unsettling to all of us who are struggling today. That’s been a consistent theme for us, not just for us here, but for Ohio and across the country,” she said.
        “We know, to keep our kids in school five days per week, in person, there are very basic things we need to do. If you are eligible to vaccinate, please do so. If your children are eligible to vaccinate, please do so. Masking, masking, masking, is a simple easy thing to do that protects your child, the people around them, the teachers, administrators, and all of us who are going to take care of the community. And hand washing. That has always been the goal across the state of Ohio based on the evidence of science.”
        A group of parents in the audience were opposed to the mask mandate, saying the district was taking away their right to decide on such matters for their children.
        “I totally disagree with the mask mandate,” said Arik Bench. “I think it’s our right to choose. I know you’re here to supposedly take care of our kids and put their best interests at heart. But more kids die in car accidents every year. How do we get our kids to school now because that’s a more serious problem.”
        William Fredrick Lewis, of Brown Road, said teenagers are scared because they think there is danger in their schools. “That’s why they mask. People are doing the best they can to protect them. They say, `If that’s the case, why don’t people wear masks at the football games.’” said Lewis, to a burst of applause from the audience. “I don’t doubt the science, and that we have a serious problem. My great-grandmother died of the Spanish flu. I get it. But I don’t get the hypocrisy.”
        Robin Burnette, of South Lallendorf Road, said “there is no such thing as a COVID-19 outbreak in any school across the nation. Not one. They don’t need to wear masks.”
        She also said parents don’t want the school district teaching Critical Race Theory and the 1614 Project, both controversial teachings of slavery and race in the country.
        “We don’t want them pushed down our throats,” she said. “You are demanding things on our children that are unnecessary. You’re stepping over the line. We have an election coming up and we are voting you all out,” she said to with applause from the audience. 
        School Board President Carol Molnar noted that the district does not teach Critical Race Theory or any controversial teachings regarding race.


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