The mom of two Georgia students has pleaded with officials not to mandate mask-wearing at schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that they would not stop the spread and could be used as weapons.
Jennifer Whitlock addressed a Paulding County School District Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, saying there was not enough evidence to support claims that face coverings stop the spread of the virus among children.
‘I have always thought my children are safe. The threat of this virus isn’t any different than other illnesses schools deal with on a daily basis – strep, flu, pink eye, croup, worms,’ Whitlock told the Board.
‘All of those are prevalent in children. Is the China virus prevalent in children?’ she asked.
Whitlock went on to argue that masks may be detrimental to a student’s communication skills, and could adversely impact their cognitive development.
She also added that face covering could be turned into ‘weapons’ in the classrooms – including slingshot and blindfolds.
‘As much as we’re fearful of the unknown, the one thing I know is God is in control,’ she stated, before receiving a rapturous round of applause at the end of her speech.
Whitlock’s plea to officials comes despite studies that have shown that wearing a mask can cut the risk transmitting the virus, as it blocks droplets of water from being spread while breathing, coughing and talking.
One peer-reviewed study in the Lancet showed wearing a mask cut the risk of transmission from 17 percent to 3 percent.
On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an updated advisory on coronavirus transmission recommending that Americans wear masks.
President Trump has even back-flipped on his anti-mask stance, recently donning a face covering.
Whitlock spoke as one school in her district remained closed for a third day, following confirmed cases of COVID-19.
At least three staff members and six students from North Paulding High School have tested positive for the virus, forcing the school to shut.
Last week, a photo of students crammed into hallways without face coverings at the school went viral on social media.
Meanwhile, at least 1,000 students from a school district in neighboring Cherokee County are now in quarantine following the resumption of in-person classes last week.
The 42,000-student district, which is just outside Atlanta, said on Monday that 38 students and 12 teachers had tested positive for the virus in the week that in-person classes resumed.
Those who have been asked to quarantine were identified as part of the district’s contact tracing efforts as people who may have come into close contact with an infected student or teacher.
The school district drew national attention last week when a photo of students at Etowah High School squeezed together for first-day-of-school senior photos without wearing masks.
Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Brian Hightower sent a letter home to parents saying that many of the seniors in those photos ‘wear masks routinely’ even though the school doesn’t require them to.
The school district is posting information about all confirmed infections and quarantines on its website in a bid to be transparent.
‘As made clear in our reopening of school plan, we anticipated positive tests among students and staff could occur, which is why we put a system into place to quickly contact trace, mandate quarantines, notify parents and report cases and quarantines to the entire community,’ Cherokee spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said.
‘We are not hesitating to quarantine students and staff who have had possible exposure – even if the positive test was prompted by possible exposure rather than symptoms.’
No statewide mask mandate is currently in place in Georgia but the Cherokee County school district has encouraged students to wear them.
It comes as Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp said on Monday that the reopening of some of the state’s schools amid the pandemic outbreak had gone well – except for the widely shared photos of students crowded together without masks.