Pueblo D70 sends letter to health department requesting removal of mask mandate

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Pueblo County School District 70's Board of Education is asking the Pueblo County Board of Health to remove its county-wide mask mandate in K-12 schools.

The D70 board made its request in a letter to the board of health on Dec. 10.

The mandate in question has been in effect since Aug. 30 and requires individuals at least two years old to wear masks at indoor schools, child care facilities and camps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to the public health order.

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Several exemptions to the current mask mandate, including exemptions for those who are unable to medically tolerate a mask, are outlined in the order.

"These measures have never had a clear end in sight, and this is causing an undue strain on the learning system," D70's letter said. "We as a community are tired of being forced to adhere to mandates that are not proving affective [sic] in comparison to the despair that they are causing to students and our community."

Contrary to the letter's assertion, mask-wearing has proven effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Experimental and epidemiologic data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-COV-2, including alpha and delta variants, among adults and children," according to the CDC. "The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and wearer protection."

In addition to opposing mask mandates in schools, the letter sent by Pueblo District 70 opposes vaccine mandates in schools. Currently, there is no vaccine mandate for K-12 schools in Pueblo County, according to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

"There has been segregation of unvaccinated and vaccinated children in making these mandates, yet there has been no consideration for students having natural immunity," the D70 board said in its letter. "As natural immunity to a virus is proven more affective [sic] than immunization, these are factors that should be taken into account when considering immunity."

According to recent CDC studies, vaccination offers significantly higher protection from COVID-19 than immunity gained through a prior COVID-19 infection.

A CDC study compiled in August to measure COVID-19 infections in Kentucky among people who were previously infected with the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 showed that unvaccinated individuals "are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus."

According to the CDC, reinfection of COVID-19 within 90 days following initial infection is uncommon. However, the CDC recommends that vaccine-eligible individuals get vaccinated to prevent risking COVID-19 related hospitalization or death.

"Vaccine Effectiveness Studies provide a growing body of evidence that mRNA COVID-19 offer similar protections in real-world conditions as they have in clinical trial settings, reducing the risk of COVID-19, including severe illness by 90 percent or more among people who are fully vaccinated," according to the CDC.

All five members of the Pueblo District 70 board signed the letter sent to the Pueblo County Board of Health. Members of the board were sworn in on Dec. 3 during a special meeting. Anne Ochs was named board president and A.J. Wilson was named vice president.

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John Christensen, Christopher DeLuca and Cathleen Culhane Howland are the other three newly-elected board directors.

No directors from the previous board were re-elected during the Nov. 2 election. Former directors Paulette Frye, Fredrick Quintana and Staphanie Cordova-Catalano were defeated by Wilson, Ochs and Culhane Howland respectively. Former Board President Mark Emery and former Vice President Debbie Houghton did not run for reelection.

Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo D70 requests Pueblo Board of Health remove school mask mandate