Though they support the idea of local students returning to classes, they note that they did not have direct input into a report that has drawn national attention and criticism.
While Wagner and Chau wrote that they “applaud the efforts” of the Board of Education to “bring children back to school,” they also pointedly noted that they did not “write, edit or review” the report. [Wagner was on the panel that supposedly produced the report.]
Since Monday, when the county Board of Education issued its symbolic recommendation to 27 local school districts it doesn’t oversee, the report has drawn national media attention and often angry criticism.
Among other things, the report suggests that students would be better served to attend school without masks, and that social distancing isn’t needed.
On Wednesday, Orange County reported 911 new cases of coronavirus and 22 deaths.
Wagner and Chau were among several public officials and health experts whose names were attached to a report approved by most of the five-member elected panel that comprises the Board of Education. [4-1]
The report from the Board of Education differs from recommendations made by the agency it’s connected to, the Orange County Department of Education. The Department recommends that schools should follow public health officials, and that any in-class education should include social distancing and masks for students and staff.
. . .
Wagner, who represents the Third District, said in a brief interview Wednesday that the county isn’t connected to the Board of Education or its report.
“I want to make sure there isn’t any misunderstanding about the county’s role,” Wagner said. “Ultimately, it’s the school districts’ decision. As a county supervisor, it’s not my call.”
Still, Wagner said he would prefer to see kids in school and not learning online.
“I’m not convinced, personally, that online education is sufficient. And I hope they find a way to get back to in-person teaching as soon and as safely as possible.”
. . .
“We will not be operating in the way that OCDE’s Board has suggested,” said Bob Pletka, superintendent of the Fullerton School District. “Their recommendations contradict legal mandates such as the governor’s executive order for people, including students, to wear masks in public. We will be following O.C. Health department’s regulations and California Department of Health directives”
. . .
The broad outline for the report issued Monday, July 13, was set during a June 24 forum convened by the Board of Education, board members said. Wagner, Chau and nine others were invited to participate as forum panelists.
The June forum’s official agenda included a set of “first principles,” which stated that requiring children to wear masks at school “is not only impossible to implement but not based on science and could be potentially harmful.”
. . .
Wagner, who was interviewed Wednesday on CNN, said the June forum was skewed to one point of view, and that he would have liked to hear all sides represented…..
For TRANSCRIPTS of the CNN interview (Don Wagner) go here.
Voice of OC
a group analysis from an 11-person panel in June that included multiple education and health experts, as well as county health care agency director Dr. Clayton Chau and County Supervisor Don Wagner.
. . .
But now, multiple members of that panel have disavowed the report, saying it does not represent their views and that they were never consulted on the document.
Instead, the report was written by Dr. Ken Williams Jr., president of the Board of Education, and Will Swaim, president of the nonprofit California Policy Center, who also moderated the panel.
Neither were identified as authors within the report, with one small note thanking Swaim for his “assistance and input in the preparation of this document.”
Members of the panel were all listed on the title page, with short bios at the end of the report.
In an interview, Swaim said he was approached about a month before the panel met by Williams and Mari Barke, the board’s vice president, and asked to write the report and serve as a moderator for the panel.
“I’m not a doctor. They said we’re not looking for a doctor, we’re looking for someone to manage the town hall circus,” Swaim said. “They wanted to limit the conversation to are kids at risk, and looking at the data it was pretty clearly no.”
Swaim said he examined the data himself from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and at the Orange County level, and said the narrative that a return to schools would be harmful was largely propagated by teachers unions. He also brought up concerns that keeping kids home could lead to long term damage as well.
“I knew from just looking at OC data, the kids are not at risk, they’re almost supermen. I’m not saying they’re invulnerable, but almost,” Swaim said. “Kids have more to risk from the adults in the room and the adults have much more to risk from other adults in the room.”
The report’s statement that the use of masks are not based on science was contradicted by the CDC earlier this week, with the agency saying that even the use of cloth face masks can help protect others and the person wearing it, with a recommendation that children under the age of two not wear masks.
Swaim said he was not paid for his work, which he said was largely on his own time but called it consistent with work done by the California Policy Center. He also hosts a podcast called Radio Free California, which is produced by the National Review [a conservative journal].
But Swaim also acknowledged the report’s final version ultimately didn’t include that kind of language.
. . .
“In this white paper, we have done our best to capture the general assessment of the various expert opinions. And, of course, some panelists were careful to say that they were speaking only for themselves and not necessarily for all colleagues or organizations with which they work in their professional capacities (see e.g. Appendix A.).”
Swaim stands by the draft he wrote.
“I did my best to summarize the general sense of the panel’s discussion. Fortunately, there’s a record of this, a recording on the board’s website. I would encourage those who are interested to listen to the audio,” Swaim said.
When pressed, Williams ultimately described the role of panel members in writing the report as “inconsequential.”
“The expert panel neither approved of the paper or was involved in writing it. For my knowledge, I have had virtually no contact with our panel since the special community forum in June,” Williams said in an email to Voice of OC.
According to Swaim, around 80% of the report was written before the panel ever met.
. . .
Some experts whose names were associated with the report disagreed so strongly with its findings that they asked to have their names taken off entirely.
Dr. Steven Abelowitz, a former pediatric chair at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presybterian, said that aside from speaking at the panel he was never contacted in regards to the final guidelines.
“Besides being present as an expert, I had no involvement in what was written or prepared,” Abelowitz said in a phone call with Voice of OC.
Abelowitz asked that his name be removed from the report, and released a statement that he is in strong support of both masks and social distancing, and that he would follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatricians.
. . .
Multiple members of the county government also distanced themselves from the report. In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Wagner said his only role was to share the county’s perspective, and that he had never endorsed returning to the classrooms with no additional safety measures in place.
“I never said that, and most of the folks that came from the county…were never saying that,” Wagner told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “The panel itself never wrote this, I never saw or drafted it.”
Wagner did not respond to requests for comment from Voice of OC.
Dr. Chau was the fourth member of the panel to condemn the board of education’s decision in a statement sent to Voice of OC Wednesday evening.
“I believe that schools should follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health,” read a statement sent by Chau on Wednesday night. “I continue to be a strong proponent for public health prevention measures.”
After the issue drew national attention, Chau and Wagner also issued a joint statement praising the efforts of the department of education, which just days before had put out a statement that flew in the face of the primary recommendations of the panel, which included both of them as members.
“Orange County Supervisor, Don Wagner, and Health Director, Dr. Clayton Chau, applaud the efforts of the Orange County Department of Education to bring children back to school with safety measures in place,” the statement said.
In the same statement, Wagner and Chau – in a seeming about face – issued a statement backing the county department of education plans and had different words for the Board of Education members.
“Both Supervisor Wagner and Dr. Chau encouraged the Orange County Board of Education to remain guided in their plan by the medical professionals,” the statement said. “It is important to reopen safely when the epidemiological data makes sense.”
|Today's 7-day average (cases/day): 912 cases|
Southern California has fueled the state’s spread but NorCal is beginning to catch up
The Mercury News
…State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said he recognized the health realities that many districts are facing, and applauded districts for “putting safety first.”…..
Back to school in Orange County without masks and social distancing? Many call that reckless -- Recommendations approved by the Orange County Board of Education to welcome students back to campuses without increased social distancing in classrooms or the mandatory use of masks were met with a fierce backlash from educators and parents Tuesday, highlighting the larger divide in the county over the use of face coverings and other coronavirus protections. Anh Do, Sara Cardine, Hannah Fry in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/15/20
Smith: The latest rallying cry of coronavirus deniers, brought to you by Orange County -- If we’re indeed only as strong as our weakest link, we’re in trouble, California. Big trouble. For proof, look no further than the Orange County-inspired lunacy that went down hundreds of miles away on the rustic streets of Nevada City. Erika D. Smith in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/15/20