With 16 days until school starts, the River Falls School Board met for a special meeting to further discuss a path forward for the Wildcat Roadmap 2.0 Covid 19 prevention and mitigation plan. The board voted 4-3 in favor of optional masks for the district.
Todd Schultz, Bob Casey, Lindsey Curtis and Amy Halvorson all voted in favor of the motion. “I would prefer to make a recommendation to our parents and our community versus a mandate,” said Curtis. Stacy Johnson Myers, Cindy Holbrook and Alan Tuchtenhagen voted no to optional masking.
After a lengthy public comment, the board invited Dr. Amber Morgan, local pediatrician, to offer a professional recommendation on Covid 19 mitigation and prevention.
“Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all,” she stated.
Her presentation outlined various points including that when “alpha and gamma emerged, case counts in children decreased because vaccinating adults protected children. However, with the emergence of delta, case counts in children have increased significantly in the past month,” as explained by Larry Kociolek, pediatric infectious disease doctor.
She noted that according to the CDC, in Pierce County, 41% of adolescents have been vaccinated. It is estimated that a vaccination rate of 70-90% is needed to achieve herd immunity.
Dr. Morgan also included a “why not just let the kids get it?” section in her presentation.
Covid 19 can range from mild to severe illness
45,000 plus admissions in children in US related to Covid
Covid is now the 10th leading cause of death in adolescents
Loss of time at work and school
Known complications of Covid in children and adolescents including multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, clinical and subclinical myocarditis, etc.
“We know that the primary thing that affects social emotional health and wellness of children is loss of a parent, experience of a hospitalization and not being able to be in school with their peers,” stated Dr. Morgan “While the students themselves might not suffer [from Covid 19], you can imagine what they would suffer if they lost a parent.”
Superintendent Jamie Benson’s final recommendation to the board was option two, masks optional for grades 7-12 and masks required for preschool and kindergarten through grade 6. The board voted against the recommendation unanimously.
The board will monitor covid conditions and all decisions are subject to change, referring throughout the evening to “pivoting” the mandates.
“I agree that we need to be willing to pivot, but I would sure hate to pivot too late,” said Holbrook. “It’s prevention. It’s key.” She made a movement to reinstate close contact tracing for those without a mask and within 6 feet of an individual who tested positive for Covid and 3 feet for those with a mask. Additionally, individuals with proof of vaccination would not be screened out at all.
Close contact quarantine and approval of Wildcat Roadmap 2.0 was tabled and is to be addressed at the next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16.