(AUDIO) The other side of Missouri’s lawsuit attempting to ban K-12 schools from requiring masks

by | Sep 5, 2021 | Crime / Courts, Education, Health / Medicine, News, Show Me Today

State Attorney General Eric Schmitt is suing Columbia Public Schools and any Missouri K-12 public school requiring students and staff to wear masks. Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, says a mask mandate “flies in the face of science, especially given children’s low risk of severe illness and death and their low risk of transmission.”

He says more than 50 school districts have initiated masking rules. Schmitt argues that parents and families should be the ones to decide whether children should wear masks to school to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Kristin Sohl, who serves as president of the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says much has changed with the virus compared to a year ago.

“To set the record straight, the Delta variant is effecting kids,” she says. “It is true that last fall and into the winter, kids were definitely not as impacted as adults. But now they are. And of course, the numbers are smaller because we don’t have as many children in our population as we do adults. About 11% of people with COVID-19 are children and that is much higher than it was this time last year. We also have many more children in our hospitals. Our hospitals are full and there are children in our ICUs who are very sick.”

Sohl supports local leaders making decisions along with the health experts in their communities.

“We want to make sure the surfaces and the environments that our kids are in are as healthy as they possibly can be so that we are putting in more and more layers around them. It’s not about control and it’s really not even about a parent’s choice. What this is about is the fact that you have a public health, really, crisis and every single person who is infected or has COVID-19, whether they are symptomatic, whether they are in the hospital, whatever is going on, that is a domino effect into the classroom,” Sohl says. “So right now, that means we have to do some things that we don’t love. I don’t love wearing a mask either and yet that’s what I do because I care about my community and I care about myself.”

She encourages Missourians to talk to a healthcare expert they trust.

“We have physicians and health care experts who do spend their entire lives understanding the body and how the body reacts to these types of threats. At some point, we do have to recognize there is a knowledge base there and how can we work with that rather than against that,” says Sohl. “If we had a major belly pain and it ended up being our appendix was infected and needed to come out, nobody is going to stand there and argue for days and say, ‘You don’t know what you are talking’ and things like that. We’d say, ‘Alright doc, please take it out. It hurts.’ And then it’s better.”

Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, questions the attorney general’s decision and data he is referring to.

“I’m kind of curious why he sued Columbia and did that reverse class action,” says Randol. “Why didn’t he ask for emergency injunctive relief? If it’s so, in his pleading, so dangerous for children. I’m curious as to what his research is. The stuff that he cited in his pleadings were from 2020 – well before the Delta variant and they weren’t even based in the United States.”

Randol says she is not advocating for mask requirements but instead wants health experts to continue to have the opportunity to help guide schools with their local safety measures.

Republicans have historically supported local control. Randol says the lawsuit is a significant erosion of that tradition.

“The districts that have made the decisions to not mask, they did that in conjunction with their local authorities – both their local health officials and private community members weighing the variables that would impact that decision – the high community transmission if that’s in play, or positivity rates. So, those decisions are acceptable but those same decisions when they are made to require masking are not acceptable,” she says. “Both decisions to mask or not mask are local control decisions. Both are based on what the local health experts are sharing with our school districts. So, I’m not sure how one is acceptable and the other one isn’t when they are both using those same metrics to determine what is best for their children. They are not doing it in a vacuum. They are not doing it in isolation.”

To hear the interviews with Melissa Randol and Dr. Kristin Sohl, featured on Show Me Today, click below.

Earlier story with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt:

Missouri Attorney General sues Columbia Public Schools — and any school that might impose COVID-19 mask mandates (AUDIO INTERVIEW)

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