Parents speak at CDHD board meeting, protest student quarantine and mask mandates

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 12:31 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Dozens of parents, students and community members showed up to the Central District Health Department’s board meeting Monday night. The group called on CDHD Director Teresa Anderson to explain her recent decisions regarding the pandemic. Speakers accused her of “making up the rules as [she] goes about the day” and not following Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

The health department recently quarantined 120 Northwest High School students for being exposed after one student tested positive. Protesters at the meeting called that overkill.

“They are targeting Northwest because we started the school year with no masks,” one Northwest mom, Lacy Beard, told Local4. “One positive case in the school so far and she pulled 120 kids out of school immediately. She just decided to go into our school system overpowering and pulling kids.”

Beard said Anderson is “interpreting” the guidelines released by the CDC, did not follow their contact tracing and quarantined more students than she had to.

“She did not enter that building and talk to each individual student to see where they were located around the positive person,” Beard said. “She never talked to a single student or parent. She just got the roster from the superintendent and pulled every single kid out.”

Anderson confirmed to Local4 that she did not enter the building, but said she did contact tracing through the school.

“Contact tracing is a difficult concept to understand,”Anderson said. “It doesn’t mean we go into the school with a magnifying glass and check around or interview everyone who is around. We contact the administration and then we start asking for things like a seating chart and the names of kids who were around the kid who tested positive. The other thing we look at is how long was that child in school while positive and did they have a mask on.”

Northwest High School did not originally start the year with a mask mandate, but changed its policy after losing so many students to quarantine. Parents also protested that requirement at the meeting.

Annaka Krafka has children in Grand Island schools and also spoke to the board. She said that forced mask wearing does more harm than good.

“When our schools were pressured to mandate masks because of the health department’s overstep with mass quarantine that goes even beyond CDC recommendation,” Krafka read from a written statement. “Our kids were put in a situation that is unsafe for some and some believe is a distraction from education for all.”

She went on to tell the board that wearing a mask “poses as a heightened risk for kids with asthma and allergies.”

Concerns were raised by many people that wearing a mask will build bacteria or mold, which is unsafe to breathe. Teresa Anderson said that is not true.

“When you have a mask over your face and you’re breathing out and breathing back in, that’s essentially your own flora,” Anderson said. “You’re not going to make yourself sick by breathing in what you just breathed out.”

Another topic that was brought up by several people is that if masks work, then anyone who wears one should not need to quarantine despite being exposed. Anderson said this question is asked many times and explained that it does work to lessen the risk.

“If I don’t have a mask and I have COVID, I’m going to spread the virus pretty easily to other people,” she said. “If we all wear masks, then I am keeping it to myself and you’re reducing the risk of contracting it from me. Everybody wears a mask is the best situation. Masks do work. They’re not 100%, but nothing in life is 100%. They do reduce the risk of getting sick.”

Both the crowd and the board agreed to meeting again in the future to talk more about these topics. CDHD Board President Chuck Haase said he would be happy to answer more questions and take concerns into consideration, but at the end of the day what’s important is keeping the public safe.

“We’re not looking to compromise on things,” Haase said. “Teresa’s responsibility to the public is to stop community spread. They think it’s overreaching and we’re never going to agree on that.”

“In public health, the things that we do to keep people safe are things like mandating seat belts, mandating air bags in the cars,” Anderson said. “These are things that keep people safe. We make public health laws to keep people safe and sometimes they don’t seem very reasonable to people.”

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