Tiffin, Ohio — During a Tiffin City School Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening, board member Dr. Andrew Gase railed against the district’s mask policy, calling it “shortsighted” and claiming the policy is not based on science.
“One of the items we passed tonight had to do with the mask policy, and I noticed on there part of the instructions were to use any existing science,” Gase said with his face mask pulled down under his chin. “I think it’s dishonest to use a policy that includes masks for children 10 and under, in that the science is clear that children 10 and under, virtually no one gets sick, virtually no one transmits the virus.”
During the meeting in Tiffin Middle School’s gymnasium, Gase said the district’s policy, which requires all K-12 students to wear a facial covering while attending school or a school function on school property, asks children to “give up quite a bit.”
“We have no idea what this is going to do in the future,” Gase said. “As it is right now, we don’t have a doctor leading the Ohio Department of Health. Actually, I think Mr. Himes is a lawyer. So I think we’re not using science, in my mind. I think if you talk to primary care doctors, those who see pediatrics, I would say 90% would agree.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, in the United States children represent about 9% of all COVID-19 cases.
Hospitalization rates for children are much lower than for adults. However, if children are hospitalized, they need to be treated in the intensive care unit as often as hospitalized adults, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rarely, some children might also develop a serious condition that appears to be linked to COVID-19.
Gov. Mike DeWine said the Ohio Department of Health’s order requiring all K-12 students to wear face coverings in school reflects recommendations from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Ohio American Academy of Pediatrics. Exceptions include students under the age of 2-years-old, any child unable to remove a mask without assistance, a child with a significant behavioral/psychological issue undergoing treatment that is exacerbated by the use of a mask, a child with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay, or a child with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction.
“This gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school,” DeWine said in an August coronavirus press briefing in which he announced the order.
Gase, however, made it clear Tuesday evening that he does not agree with the governor’s assessment.
“I think social distancing, six feet, is probably the most important thing. Masks, not so,” Gase said.
Gase, a family practice physician by trade, added that he refuses to wear a mask most of the time, and that he finds it difficult to communicate with a mask on.
“I think people read lips a lot more than we realize. I think people look at facial gestures a lot more than we realize. And I think we’re doing a huge disservice to our children,” Gase said.
Board President Victor Perez said he and Gase have exchanged scientific articles regarding the use of face masks for children, and that the district’s policy was designed to conform with the state health department’s orders.
“I think the policy is, we passed it because that is what the governor ordered at this point. And we have to comply with state law at this point,” Perez said.
“I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time, I just can’t do it any longer,” Gase said. “If nobody’s standing up for our kids right now, because we’re all afraid of the governor, I think that’s wrong.”
Gase said he believes mask policies should be local decisions, and not up to the governor. “I think it should be a local decision. I really think it should.”
Board member Dr. Meagan McBride said from what she understands, the mask policy is working well within the district. “The fact that the schools have done such an amazing job putting precautions and preventions in place, and we’re open. And it’s going well from everything that I understand. Granted, there’s going to be hiccups, but I’d much rather have prevention in place and listen to epidemiologists and the experts and follow the science, and be safe. I’d be much rather be safe than to get it wrong with any of our teachers, our staff, our educators.”
Perez agreed with McBride’s assessment, saying that the mask policy allows for a sense of normalcy with the school buildings being open.