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People speak out for choice at Kent County meeting

Dr. Adam London speaks to the Kent County Commissioners last week regarding the mask mandate. 

By Judy Reed

A thousand-plus Kent County residents filled DeVos Hall last Thursday, August 26, to hear from Kent County Commissioners, Kent County Public Heath administrator Dr. Adam London, and to make their feelings known about the mask mandate London dropped on Kent County schools two weeks ago, the Friday before school began.

The problem is, London (who appeared virtually), disappeared part way through the public comment time with no explanation, which only upset the crowd even more than they already were.

He never returned.

Event the Kent County Commissioners were frustrated that he left and tried to get him back, but to no avail.

Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor listens attentively to Dr. Adam London during the Kent County Commissioner work session on the mask mandate last week at DeVos Hall.

During the start of the meeting, the Kent County Commissioners heard from their legal counsel, Linda Howell, who explained that the local public health officer has the power to order a public health order by state law. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled early last week that the mask mandate was not unconstitutional. She also told the board that they had no power to rescind the order, nor could they pass a resolution compelling London to change it.

London gave a presentation to the Commissioners, and they asked him questions, as well. London explained to them that those who focus on child survival rates miss the point of children suffering from MIS-C and long Covid.

“Thankfully, our Kent County children, with a few tragic exceptions, have done relatively well so far,” said London. “Those focused solely on survival rates are missing the point that children also suffer from multi-system inflammatory syndrome and long COVID. They also suffer the mental and emotional anguish, when their adult loved ones are absent due to illness or death. I’ve heard many people say that  COVID is far less harmful for children than influenza, and that runs contrary to the largest study so far on that very question. The journal Pediatrics published a paper in their latest issue, which looked at a quarter of a million children diagnosed with COVID and compared them with over 2 million children diagnosed with influenza. Researchers cite how those kids fare 30 days past diagnosis. They found that kids with COVID were 3.9 to 5.6 times more likely to require hospitalization, at least 7.9 times more likely to suffer hypoxemia, and at least 2.5 times more likely to develop pneumonia, and the kids with influenza, they also could not identify any chronic consequence of influenza similar to the multi-system inflammatory syndrome and long COVID that kids with COVID sometimes develop further,” he explained.

“We have lost over 800 residents here in Kent County to COVID in just a little over a year. In the worst flu years in recent memory, we lose about 100 residents. It’s also important to know that children are at a higher risk of infection…Delta variant has shown itself to be very well equipped to spread amongst children.”

London also addressed the concern about masks not being healthy for kids. “I know that some people are concerned that wearing masks is not healthy for children and some claim it to be child abuse. Some have also claimed that masks are literally killing children. So I sought the input of pediatricians, family doctors, behavioral health specialists, and others on this question in their practice and in their study, they can find no reasonable evidence of harm to children as a result of facemask. Secondly, I asked our hospitals, if they have seen any increase in respiratory distress or infections, which could be attributed to mask use. They replied they have not. They further stated that it is only in the past month or so, during a time when masks have been mostly unused, that they have seen a notable increase in RSV and other viral respiratory infections. I also asked our Medical examiner Dr Stephen Cohle, if any Kent County children had died due to masks. He responded, there have been no deaths to children or anyone else from wearing a mask, based on his experience as a pathologist. He recommended face mask use.”

London said that it is his job to see what’s coming, and that he would not have implemented the mask mandate at schools elementary students if he didn’t think it was important.

He did say that he did not support any order from his office on vaccines, noting that could come from the state level, or from employers.

He said three things could cause the order to be rescinded: two months after a vaccine for kids is available, the mask order would be rescinded; when the CDC lowers the risk level and it stays there for seven days; or if London sees things have changed to no longer necessitate the order.

He said that what’s currently happening here is mirroring what’s happened in other states, just a few weeks behind.

London took a round of questions from Commissioners, with several asking him some pointed albeit respectful questions. Commissioners Tom Antor, Ben Green, Chair Mandi Bolter and others appeared to take their consituents’ concerns to heart.

Public comments then began. Most all were respectful, and they tried to share their own stories and feelings about their family and the mandate. They wanted London to hear their stories. But he only heard a portion of them before he disappeared from the meeting.

Cedar Springs had several residents who spoke, including School Board President Heidi Reed. “For the record, Kent ISD does not speak for us,” she told London and the Commissioners, referring to a letter KISD Supt. Ron Koehler allegedly wrote to London telling him that all the districts wanted the mask mandate. 

“The Kent County Health Department recently made a one size fits all decision to mask preK through six grade students three days before school started. Today I stand before you, for the parents who are being denied the right to make medical decisions for their children, because of the medical mandate that is being forced on them via the Kent County Health Department. Further, the public health order was worded with the burden of enforcement on the schools—not personal responsibility or the public in general. Schools are not designed to be the enforcement arm for the health department.”

She went on to explain how they use a multi-tiered protection system, and how they’ve worked with the Health Department in the past, but they need to speak up for those with the smallest voices—the kids.

Cinty Patin, Board President at CTA, also spoke, and explained how they had been completely prepared for the school year, and how London’s mandate took away parents’ choice, something parents valued when choosing to send their kids to CTA.

Two representatives from the state legislature also spoke during public comment.

The meeting lasted about 4-1/2 hours.

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