As Deadly Virus Mutates And Advances, Some Parents Want No Precautions In School Settings

As the first round of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic permeated across the globe, beginning in March 2020, schools in San Bernardino County as in all of California discontinued in-class instruction, going to a remote learning model, familiarizing students like never before with electronic forums such as Zoom, and engaging in on-line learning sessions. Those measures were taken out of an abundance of caution, as the coronavirus in its earliest version and initial permutations were proving fatal among a portion of the population.
In general, medical masks were recommended and in time became de rigueur and ultimately mandatory in public places and businesses which were not hit with closure orders. A segment of the population questioned the seriousness of the pandemic, dismissing COVID-19 as just another version of the flu and a not very serious one at that, and claimed that the circumstance was the outgrowth of a governmental hoax perpetrated to trigger panic and hysteria within the population to grease the way for a set of oppressive government-imposed restrictions.
As it turned out, those below the age of majority, most specifically those of junior high school and elementary school age, proved to be particularly resistant to the affliction. Nevertheless, schools remained closed to the end of the 2019-20 school year and throughout the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. Selectively, certain schools began reopening in the spring of 2021, and the lion’s share of school districts throughout California and San Bernardino County prepared for the reopening of schools with the initiation of the late summer/fall semester of the 2021-22 school year.
By the end of 2020, an experimental and, by traditional medical standards, untested vaccine was available. With the dawn of 2021, the vaccine, by virtue of its relatively benign showing within the limited element of the population that braved it, became more widely available and was distributed without cost to the adult population willing to receive it.
In April 2021, just as a significant portion of the adult population was immunized, the Delta version of the coronavirus/COVID malady, the first substantial transmogrification of the disease, hit.
School openings in many venues continued, while in virtually all others, planning toward public school opening with the advent of the 2021-22 school year continued.
Paradoxically, the Delta variant turned out to be far more impactful upon its youthful infectees than the original version of the condition, such that a small percentage of infants, toddlers, children, adolescents and young adults became seriously ill upon contracting the pathosis. Some died.
In this way, the prospect of across-the-board school reopenings and the proximity of millions of students with one another, many of whom were now recognized as vulnerable to the potentially fatal virus, gave public health officials, school officials and government officials tremendous pause as the beginning of the school year in August approached.
The California Public Health Department issued an order, which was refined and updated after the initiation of school in most districts statewide on September 1, mandating that everyone within an enclosed school setting, adults and children over the age of 2 in pre-school through high school, wear a mask. There were limited specified exemptions extending to those with medical conditions or disabilities that made wearing a mask impractical or risky. An exemption applied to everyone during mealtime.
A cross section of parents objected to the mandate, stating it was unnecessary, that it was an imposition on the students, that it ran contrary to the independence of action and thought that should be a principle in American life and which those parents were attempting to instill in their children, that it was an abridgment of the students’ rights, and an effort on the part of the government to brainwash the students and cow them into conformance with government-issued orders and the surrendering of their rights.
A month later, the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom, who had easily outdistanced an effort to remove him from office during a statewide recall vote on September 14, upped the ante. State officials announced on October 1 that in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration giving approval for the administration of the vaccine to students of junior high school and high school age, students 12 years of age and up will be required to be vaccinated as early as January 1, 2022 and no later than July 1, 2022 in order to attend school. Those officials likened the move to the precautions long in place that require children be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella before they can begin school and the more recent requirement that they be vaccinated against pertussis. Some parents expressed disappointment that the order did not immediately extend to kindergarten and grade school students. California officials added that the state will require the COVID vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade upon the federal government giving approval for the provision of the vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11,
Some, however, remain highly skeptical of the government’s move to protect the population from either the original coronavirus pandemic – COVID-19 – or its mutations or intensifications, such as the Delta variant.
According to some of those railing against the government’s COVID precaution mandates, the entire effort is a conspiracy by government in conjunction with the major corporations on the planet to bring about “a great reset” which is to move everyone to a worldwide cashless society system tied directly to vaccine passports that in the near future will further entail the addition of a carbon tax to track and trace everywhere that people travel. This will lead to restrictions on permissible movement by the population, these conspiracists maintain. The governmental establishment has been lying about the COVID crisis all along, and is continuously changing its story to effectuate the eventual enslavement of the vast majority of the human population, those who advocate against accepting the restrictions propound. The anti-vaxxers have put out that the government is using manufactured fear to control the populace. All of this is part of a “new-world agenda” to take people’s cars away from them, those saying the COVID pandemic is a hoax maintain, and they assert that the death rates from COVID-19 were and are greatly exaggerated or non-existent. Each piece of the COVID doomsayers’ story does not stand up to common sense or science, the government’s critics hold. Those advocating resistance to the government-imposed restrictions cite early government misstatements minimizing the seriousness of the coronavirus and its spread and that it would not jump from China where it was first detected to the United States, which was quickly and abruptly followed by a reversal that included mandates, martial law and lockdowns, which, they say, was accompanied by governmental assertions that a two-week shutdown of commerce and socializing would stem the spread. The government continuously extended the lockdown in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the rise in the spread of the disease, followed by the creation of a game plan that called for ending the crisis with the advent of a vaccine, those taking issue with the government’s action say. The hospitals were not filled with the sick and dying during the pandemic as the government claimed, the conspiracists maintain, and reports to that effect were “fake news” put out by the mainstream media which was in lockstep with the government. Emergency field hospitals set up to handle an overflow of emergency patients went largely unused, according to those who question the story put out by the government. The public, kept in the dark by virtue of being in lockdown, was unable to discern that there was in reality no crisis as the government’s false narrative claimed because they could not check out for themselves how empty the hospitals actually were, those who deny the government’s sense of alarm say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the way that death due to coronavirus was calculated, those rejecting the governments representations report. Constantly rising COVID deaths claimed by the government were in reality deaths from other causes such as heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or other life-threatening co-morbidities, they say.
In San Bernardino County, a manifestation of this distrust came at the September 16 Chino Joint Unified School District Board meeting. Board member Andrew Cruz, who was backed by his board colleague James Na, sought to gain majority board support for a resolution that much, if not all of the public effort at the state and local levels to arrest the progress of COVID-19 and its current mutation, the Delta variant, represents “government overreach.”
Cruz’s resolution opposed California’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates, and iterated his belief that “the use of coercion as a means to make individuals submit to vaccination is unacceptable” and that “the district opposes statewide vaccination mandates that put employment at risk and compromise personal freedom.”
There were elements in the crowd who concurred with Cruz, most particularly a group bearing the name Parent Association of Chino Valley, the members of which celebrate “Christian, conservative and family values,” while claiming more than 1,000 members in Chino and Chino Hills. Those with Parent Association of Chino Valley who spoke emphasized that school district staff and the majority of the board they characterized as “liberals” were not listening to their concerns about how the imposition of the mandates were violations of their rights and their children’s rights, and that state and local officials were not considering the potential hazard of the vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus. Some demanded to know whether the district would accept liability if any of their children were harmed by the vaccine.
Within the crowd at the September 15 Chino school board meeting there was an even more numerous contingent of parents who supported the state and local district establishment’s strategy to use masking and eventual vaccination to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent the contagion from hurting or even killing their children.
Ultimately, Cruz’s effort to pass his resolution failed. While it garnered his colleague James Na’s vote, it was opposed by Board President Joe Schaffer, Don Bridge, and Christina Gagnier.
In the fall of 2020 moving into the winter, the original version of the deadly coronavirus – COVID-19 – hit what was once thought to be its deadliest crescendo.
According to San Bernardino County’s Department of Health, as of Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 170,855 of the county’s residents had contracted confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of December 21, 2020 a total of 1,375 county residents had perished from the disease from the onset of the outbreak in February 2020. As of Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 1,407 deaths of county residents had been attributed to the disease. Over the next two days there were 13 COVID-19-related deaths and a jump of 3,246 in the number of those with confirmed cases of the contagion countywide. Those numbers were a respite from what had occurred in the weeks previously. A serious advance of the syndrome took place between December 14 and December 21 inclusive, when 134 of those with the affliction died. That included 52 deaths over a 48-hour period on December 19 and 20. Deaths wholly or partially attributable to COVID-19 in San Bernardino County reached their apex on December 16, when 63 people died. As of Christmas Day 2020, over the previous four days, 55 deaths from the coronavirus had been recorded, a clip of thirteen-and-a-half people per day. That represented a weekly average of 94.5 deaths. Months before that, during the seven days of August 2 to August 9, 2020, inclusive, 129 people died in San Bernardino County.
Yet the statistics for all of 2020 in San Bernardino were tame, compared to what has been ongoing in the last nine-and-one-quarter months.
Following the close of 2020, there was for more than three months a gradual drawdown in the number of COVID-19 deaths, followed by a lull in the crisis, which some attributed to the substantial vaccination rate.
Nevertheless, the advent of the Delta variant has pushed the Coronavirus-affiliated death rate beyond what it had been previously. During the first ten months of the crisis, from February until Christmas 2020, there had been 1,420 virus-related deaths in San Bernardino County, such that the county’s residents were dying from COVID-connected-or-influenced conditions at a rate of roughly 4.25 per day.
As of today, October 8, there have been 5,556 total confirmed COVID-19/Delta variant related deaths in San Bernardino County since the disease penetrated the county in February 2020.
From Christmas Day 2020 to today, San Bernardino County residents have found themselves dying, from the ravages of the original version of COVID-19 and any variants including the more deadly Delta version, at a rate of 14.41 per day. That includes the dip in deaths in the months of January to March span, and the acceleration in morbidity that began in April with the local advent of the Delta variant.
External data is as alarming, particularly as pertains to children.
Across the country, where last year at this time pediatric COVID-19 cases accounted for well under 5 percent of the pandemic’s reach, at present nationwide, 25 percent of the cases are those infecting children. Over 243,000 children are known to have come down with COVID-19 in one of its various forms, including the Delta variant, between September 2 and September 9, 2021, the latest accounting period on children currently available. That represents the second highest number of cases among children in a single week since the pandemic began, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While hospitalization of children for the condition was previously so rare as to be practically unheard of, as of September 29, 2021, 2.4 percent of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States were children. At this point, Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and Iowa have discontinued reporting on childhood COVID cases. There have been, as of today, 520 childhood COVID-19 fatalities and rising throughout 46 reporting states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico.
At its September 14 meeting, the Morongo Valley Unified School District Board convened at Joshua Tree Elementary School in Joshua Tree. On the agenda for that meeting was a presentation of the district’s COVID-19 protocols that were to be enunciated by Superintendent Doug Weller and assistant superintendents Sharon Flores, Mike Ghelber, and Amy Woods. The policy extends to a universal masking mandate for kindergartners to 12th grade students that came from on high in Sacramento to schools throughout the state. Woods’ intent was to explain how the district’s failure to enforce the mask requirement would breach not only a legal duty, but also the primary responsibility of educators to protect students. Violation of mandatory public health guidance puts the health and safety of students, staff and their families needlessly at risk, Woods eventually stated, and would carry with it significant legal and financial risks.
Before that, or any official action could be gotten to, however, the board had to deal with a show of protest with regard to that protocol. Present at the meeting was a beefed-up security detail, consisting of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sergeant Omar Lastra and deputies Elizabeth Gonzalez and Jose Perez. The trio had been dispatched to the meeting because of reports that parents ready to contest the policy were to be in attendance.
As part of the protest, those parents had refused to don masks. That was problematic because part of the state’s and the district’s COVID protocol is that whenever anyone – children or adults – are indoors on school grounds, they are required to wear masks.
Inside the Joshua Tree Elementary multipurpose room were unmasked parents awaiting the arrival of the school board so that they could make clear their belief that a matter of principle is involved, one pertaining to freedom and the maintenance of rights to be free from government mandates for masking or vaccination or anything else. They were itching to make a case that masks and vaccine represent a health risk – ones that were as grave as the coronavirus itself. There are side effects to the vaccine, they said, and it has not been shown to be safe for children. Moreover, the masks reroute carbon dioxide back into the noses and mouths of those wearing masks, they said.
The standoff continued as the school board members refused to come into the meeting room while the unmasked adults were present. Also present in the room were parents who were not part of the protest and who were masked.
Sergeant Lastra told the protesters that there would be no meeting if those present did not mask up. After a roughly 20 minute delay, with Lastra, Gonzalez and Perez glaring at them, the protesters relented. They did not put on masks, but left.
Some of the protesters, citing principle, said they simply could not put masks on and knuckle under to an illegal and unconstitutional mandate. One, who was prepared to confront the school board members with Benjamin Franklin’s adage that “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” suggested the school board and the district staff were cowardly in their unwillingness to be confronted by the protesters.
-Mark Gutglueck

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