Board of Training candidates speak masks, COVID-19 insurance policies
MONROE, CT – Justin Orlando, a Republican Education Committee nominee who rejects masked mandates, literally wore his views on his chest during an interview at Starbucks on Friday morning. His T-shirt read: “Breaking News: Fresh air is still fresh air.”
He disagrees with Governor Ned Lamont having sole authority over how the state deals with the pandemic, including ordering the executive to mandate masking in schools.
“I’m not an anti-mask. I’m the pro choice, ”said Orlando. “It forces people to do what they disagree with. The governor demands that I mask my children. “
Orlando said he personally doesn’t believe masks are effective against the spread of the coronavirus, but believes parents should have the right to make their own decision whether to send their children to school wearing a mask.
He said parents who prefer masks would be just as upset if the governor forced their children to go to school without a mask. “We should all support parenting choices,” Orlando said.
Orlando, a married father of three, said his children go to school in masks, with the exception of his eldest daughter, who has a medical exemption signed by a pediatrician.
His views differ from the other six candidates running for the Education Council in the November local elections, including those in his own party.
The Sun interviewed all candidates so families who have faced problems during the pandemic can see where they stand.
Dennis Condon, a Republican running for the Board of Education and the incumbent Republicans Christina Cascella and Jeff Fulchino, point out that Monroe public schools are committed to the state on many issues, including COVID guidelines.
“We are following the governor’s orders,” said Cascella.
Jerry Stevens, a retired teacher and acting Democrat on the Education Committee, also pointed out the limitations on local decision-making.
“I don’t think people understand that if you are elected to a Connecticut Board of Education you will be governed by the State Board of Education,” said Stevens. “You are an extension of the State Board of Education. It’s like an unfunded mandate. At the moment, the governor said through February 15 that there is an executive order on the wearing of masks. “
Theresa Oleyar and Chrissy Fensore Martinez, two Democrats running for the Education Committee, both prefer masks.
“I’m looking forward to the day my kids don’t wear masks at school, of course,” said Oleyar. “But when I see my children’s pediatrician increasing PTE recently with a surge in breakthrough cases, I will trust masks and other PTEs to be effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.”
“The priority was to keep everyone safe,” said Oleyar. “Personally, I will continue to listen to everyone involved. This includes people with a
disagree with me. I’ll take that into account, but at the end of the day I’ll listen to our medical professionals and our state and local administrations – and I’ll follow their lead. “
Oleyar served as a parent representative on the distance learning committee and the reopening committee at the start of the pandemic.
“I think Monroe did a great job,” she said. “All of our meetings, the effort and work that our district put into making an impossible situation work, it’s really amazing.”
Keeping children in school
Martinez Attributes Masks and isolates to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their household last year – once when her stepson had it in November and the other time when she and husband Jim got it for Christmas.
Martinez advocates following the guidelines recommended by experts at the Monroe Health Department, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – all those who recommend children wear masks in school.
She also wants the district to continue following Dr. Followed by Nimrod Dayan, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases and serves as a medical advisor to the Monroe public schools.
“It’s not really an opinion problem,” Martinez said of parents’ choice of masks. “That’s what the experts tell us to keep our children safe. For me this is not a political issue. It’s public health. I am not a doctor. I rely on the doctors and medical staff. “
Condon said the CDC and the World Pediatric Association recommend wearing masks. “Prevention is good,” he says.
“Medically effective when done correctly – N95 masks,” said Condon. “But with fabric you yawn and it comes through. It’s effective, but it’s not perfect. Nothing is perfect.”
“When you do things effectively, it reduces the numbers,” Cascella said of new cases.
Fulchino and Cascella said they would not prefer wearing masks, but they do follow the experts’ recommendations.
“We have a team that analyzes the data,” said Fulchino. “We have experts on site that we rely on at the local level to make decisions. If the decisions were made at the local level, we would rely on the experts as much as possible. “
“Nobody on the board is an expert,” said Cascella.
If decision-making were local, Cascella and Fulchino said, there would still be an emphasis on getting children to study five days a week in school.
“It’s about stability,” said Fulchino. “I have two children who were in second and fourth grades last year. In elementary school, it was very difficult for her to be socially and emotionally connected. At this level they learn best personally. “
Both Condon and Stevens noted that the aim of the Education Committee is to ensure that the district offers the best education in a safe learning environment.
“People are not used to it”
Martinez said there are many guidelines in place to keep children safe in the city’s schools, the only place where hundreds of students congregate for several hours a day, so she doesn’t understand why there is resistance to students who Wearing masks.
“In schools we have children who are at high risk,” said Martinez. “We educate children with medical conditions and other special needs that put them at higher risk, so I wonder how it has become such a divisive topic when keeping children safe is a simple measure.”
As of September, 520 children had died of COVID-19 in the US and nearly 25,000 children were hospitalized, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. Martinez noted that the numbers for each state are not included in this calculation.
“Everyone is focused on the percentage, not that those 520 children are someone’s baby,” Martinez said. “I’m surprised at the lack of empathy. I don’t want to play with children’s lives. “
“We know from real data that COVID has not spread in schools with masks and in other schools without masks,” she said. “I think the Supreme Court ruled that public health overrides individual choice. You can’t just go to school and do what you want, so I don’t see why this particular subject changes that. “
Orlando said he understood the initial reaction to disguising himself at the start of the pandemic when the country had no answers. But now that there is more data and studies, there is no need for children to wear masks.
“Statistically, we know that children are not at high risk for COVID, nor are they high vectors of transmission,” Orlando said. “They look at the European CDC and the UK and they recommend not masking school children.”
According to a study on the website of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in schools include “Face masks under certain circumstances and for certain age groups. “
“In the UK, young children don’t wear masks to school,” said an article published in the New York Times on August 27, 2021:
And they dealt with the Delta Spike in a way that might surprise American parents, educators, and lawmakers: masking was a limited part of the strategy. In fact, most elementary school students and their teachers did not wear them in the classrooms at all.
Instead, the UK government focused on other security measures, widespread quarantine and rapid testing.
Orlando said face masks affect children socially, referring to an article by Hartford Courant published October 6, 2021 about the number of children urgently seeking behavioral health care in Connecticut tripling since the summer.
Condon recalled how the country battled polio decades ago before a vaccine established immunity. “Nobody thinks twice about the polio vaccine,” he said, adding on the current pandemic, “people are not used to it.”
Stevens said he believed in the medics, adding that he had both his vaccinations and plans to get the booster when it becomes available to him.
Orlando said his job required him to get the COVID vaccine. “I would have decided against vaccination,” he said.
He said other diseases could be eradicated with vaccines, but COVID-19 could not, as it could also be transmitted from animals.
“I think it’s not the right thing to tell people to take medication,” Orlando said, adding that the COVID vaccines won’t stop, “then what’s the point?”