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Some parents push back against Columbia County mask mandate

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 11:23 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Pushback against the new mask requirement in Columbia County schools.

The mandate went into effect Thursday, but a lot of students treated it as optional.

An anti-mask protest was held Thursday afternoon where Columbia County parents were blasting the new mandate.

So what do experts know now that we’re almost a year and a half into the pandemic?

Columbia County started the school year with no mask requirement. Within the first two weeks, the school district reported 405 positive student cases and 50 employee cases. On Tuesday, the district reported 296 more and more than 1,000 in quarantine.

District leaders decided to start requiring masks again to try to keep students in school.

Thursday was the first day of that mask mandate. And we spoke to protesting parents and our local health officials to hear both sides.

“You can wear your mask, your kid can wear their mask, but the ones who choose not to we have that right,” said Joe Turner, organizer of the protest, and Chelsea Haynes, Columbia County mom.

The biggest theme at the protest was parents’ choice. And Turner and Haynes say masks just don’t work. We asked them where they found that information.

“Um, I believe Ashley has more of the info that I do,” they said.

So we looked at the science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Mayo Clinic and multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies all agree masks reduce the distance that droplets spread. Droplets that get into your mouth, nose and eyes that spread coronavirus.

“There’s science and then there’s the epidemiology facts. You put masks on in a certain school you don’t get as many cases, why is that? Is it because of luck? No. It’s because masks make a difference, masks aren’t perfect of course not,” said Dr. Rodger MacArthur, professor of medicine at Medical College of Georgia.

So we asked parents at the protest: What if their children caught COVID? Would they be concerned?

Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Georgia told us about one-third of the kids they’ve treated in the hospital so far this year were perfectly healthy kids without underlying health conditions.

“Kids are dying. It’s as simple as that. They’re dying around the United States. They’re dying in Georgia. Adolescents are getting COVID-19 and they’re not just getting it, they’re getting very very sick with it it’s very very unfortunate. It’s tragic,” said MacArthur.

McArthur emphasized that it’s not common for children to die of COVID. But it’s more than just a cold. He’s worried about the long-term side effects like lung scarring, heart conditions and increased risk of blood clots.

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