Yesterday at the Fairport Central school district Board of Education meeting, Dr. Helen Strapko spoke out regarding the ongoing COVID situation and our schools. This is what she said:
“I am a physician currently in private practice. My decision to make a public comment at today’s meeting is at the suggestion of Mr. Provenzano, with whom I met last week.
I am dismayed by the lack of leadership in the Fairport school district and lack of initiative to get our children back in school full time, 5 days a week.
We are entering the 3rd month since reopening in the hybrid model in September. Despite dire predictions and fears, there has been no avalanche of COVID cases, but instead a sprinkling of positive test results. By all indications, transmission of the virus is NOT occurring within the schools. To this day, there has NOT been a single death due to COVID in anyone under age 30 in the entire Finger Lakes region, covering a population of 1.2 million.
Despite this encouraging trend, instead of proceeding with plans to continue further opening schools and loosening restrictions on sports, the school district has agreed to mass testing of our student population. This mandate apparently was issued by the health commissioner and other state and local officials. Honestly, this initiative is baffling to me, and to many of my physician colleagues. What exactly is the rationale in testing the least vulnerable, asymptomatic population that is NOT facilitating the spread of the virus in our community? This testing is being done because Dr. Mendoza feels that it is a “convenient” population to test. Convenient for whom? The schools? The parents? The children? We’re testing to confirm what we already know - that our children are NOT sick and are NOT spreading the virus. I find that astounding.
I would like to point out that the consent form for this testing did not inquire whether your child had tested (+) for COVID in the preceding 3 months. The school district must be aware of the latest CDC guideline to avoid retesting those with a prior (+) result for 3 months following the (+) test. Many may continue to test (+), but are no longer infectious and therefore are not at risk for infecting others. Who is screening the children and disqualifying those who should not be tested? Is there any concern for how such screening affects the children who may test (+) after being inappropriately retested - then made to quarantine when there may not be the need to do so.
To assess the relative risk of a disease or activity, historically mortality rates are used to stratify those risks in our society. There have been 105 deaths due to COVID in the entire US in those less than 20 years old. Contrast that with deaths due to other causes. Influenza has claimed 188 deaths in children under the age of 17 this year. Drownings numbered 995 in 2019 and motor vehicle accidents accounted for a staggering 4,074 deaths amongst youngsters in 2018. Based on these statistics, should we NEVER allow any child to go swimming because nearly 1,000 of them die each year due to drowning? Do we still get in the car, even though >4,000 children die in car crashes in any given year? Of course we do, because an element of risk is inherent in living on this planet.
Every healthy modern society recognizes the value of educating their children. School provides the social network that is so vital to the proper development of every child and adolescent. We used to understand that as a given, and this aim as an important priority in our community. Now it has been tossed aside, as NOTHING has become more important than following the mandates of the health commissioner, even if our children suffer greatly as a result. I would like to point out that Dr. Mendoza has unnecessarily exceeded the recommended guidelines issued by the state. It is EITHER masking OR 6 foot distancing that is required, NOT BOTH! He has also refused to accept any use of barriers, which the state guidelines permit. He DOES NOT have the authority to do this, and yet he is imposing his will on all the school districts in Monroe County. I urge the district, and the BOE, to show some courage and TRULY begin advocating to get our children back in the classroom full time. If masks must be worn, then 3 foot distancing is adequate and would allow all our kids to come back into the classroom. This is being done successfully in Europe and many other states, even in our neighboring counties.
By submitting without question to overly harsh and restrictive mandates, our school districts are fostering an environment that is leading to high rates of depression, which leads to despair and even a recent suicide of a grade school child in a neighboring community. This needs to end! Our children belong in school full time! Many experts have advocated for this, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The passivity of our administrators is depriving our kids of a normal childhood without adequate justification. You are elected by the residents of Fairport. You answer to US - NOT the governor or the health commissioner! Get our children back in school where they belong!
Helen Strapko, MD