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Health Team

Parent group, Wake County GOP at odds over masks in schools

Posted August 1, 2021 7:16 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2021 10:32 a.m. EDT

— As thousands of Wake County students prepare to head back to school this month, parents are debating whether or not masks should be part of their back-to-school supply list.

The Wake County Republican Party joined a petition by the Carolina Teacher’s Alliance over the weekend against mask and vaccine mandates, saying that they infringe on students' "educational rights."

This comes on the heels of Wake County parents and students starting their own petition weeks ago, asking to keep mask requirements in place.

The Wake County Board of Education has yet to say if masking will be required in the fall, but they will likely address it in Tuesday's board meeting. The Wake County GOP announced they would be presenting the petition — which has more than 3,000 signatures so far — in the meeting, along with a list of demands.

Kira Kroboth, who started a petition for face masks, says recommendations from the CDC and scientist should not be ignored.

"If we send our kids to school without a mask we are not listening, and we are going to end up in a bad situation," she said.

Parents who want students to wear masks in the classroom are concerned about how vocal conservative groups like the Wake County GOP are against masks. The Republican Party is calling for people to protest Tuesday's board meeting and pressure members to not require masks.

"There is a large group of us parents that are very worried that the precautions will be dropped due to the attention on the protests of masks and not the voices that want to keep them in place," said Natalie Brickell, parent or a student in WCPSS.

Parents say that if their children are not eligible to get the vaccine yet, masking should still be mandatory.

"Please help us keep politics far away from the health of our children, families, friends and community at large," the petition says. "Please help keep our families, friends and community safe, especially with the spread of the new Delta variant."

WRAL News has reported that several schools have seen a coronavirus outbreak since classes resumed. Two summer camps in North Carolina have also reported COVID-19 outbreaks.

Health officials worry that cases are only going to increase as students return to packed classrooms, unvaccinated. Classroom COVID cases could become commonplace, especially with the surging numbers and extra-contagious Delta variant.

"I think the best way to try to handle these school outbreaks, which are going to be inevitable, is to try to reduce their frequency," said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health.

The best way to minimize spread? Wearing a mask, he says.

"Anyone 3 years of age and over should be masked in a school. Will it be perfect? No. Will there be breakthroughs? Yes," he said. " Will it decrease the number of schools that have to shut down? Yes."

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