BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Mask wearing at schools remains a controversial topic across the Western New York region.
Some parents now asking that a time frame be issued to end school COVID restrictions.
But the demand to remove the restrictions comes at a time when COVID cases are on the rise in the region.
“This is not a time to fight over kids wearing masks,” declared Dr. Nancy Nielsen, senior associate dean, Health Policy, Jacobs School of Medicine, UB.
Dr. Nielsen says right now about 25-percent of the local covid cases are among school age children.
“Because the level of transmission is so high in our community, we still need masks,” Dr. Nielsen said.
But the WNY Education Alliance issued an open letter to Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.
The letter says it is concerned with what it calls Erie County's “adversarial approach” toward dealing with local school leaders and parents regarding COVID-related restrictions for school-aged children.
“What parents and students deserve now though is communication of a timeline,” noted Tarja Parssinen, founder, WNY Education Alliance.
The organization says now that 5 to 11 year olds are eligible for vaccines, it's time for the county to establish “off-ramps” and eliminate COVID restrictions in schools in the next two to three months.
“And until the off-ramps go away completely, we need to implement test to stay immediately so healthy students and staff can stay in school,” remarked Parssinen.
“It will be months, probably, before we are out of this,” Dr. Nielsen stated.
“Is it possible, right now, to put a time frame on that?” Buckley asked.
“It’s not simple. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids hospitalized — a third of them needed to go to the ICU, so we just need to do a full court press on vaccination,” replied Dr. Nielsen.
Nielsen says 700 children in the nation have died from COVID and people should not trivialize the disease for kids.
This week Governor Kathy Hochul said the mask mandate won't be removed until enough school age kids are vaccinated.
“I want them to stop wearing mask in schools — the key to doing that is getting them vaccinated,” Hochul said.
Dr. Nielsen said the best way out of the school restrictions is for parents to step forward and allow all eligible school age children 5 to 17 to get the vaccine.
“It’s hard to understand why parents aren’t frankly rushing to get this. It’s a safe vaccine. It has been shown to be safe. It reduces symptoms by 91-percent — that’s really stunning,” Dr. Nielsen responded.
The parents group is also urging Erie County to implement "Test-to-Stay"to eliminate tough quarantine rules.
“We don't need to panic about this. This is what test to stay is all about. You find immediately who's infectious and you can quarantine the infectious people and let the healthy people stay in school,” described Parssinen.
Parssinen telling 7 Eyewitness News she has heard from parents that some kids have spent a month out of the classroom this school year.
“Parents have had their kids quarantine, one, two, three times, they’re missing ten, 20, 30 days. One kid missed a month of school,” remarked Parssinen.
During a vaccine clinic for 5 to 11 last weekend at Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo the county administered 260-doses.
Erie County has set the following dates and locations for COVID vaccines for those ages 5-11:
November 13, 2021
- Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Rd, Buffalo, NY 14226: Register Here (First Dose)
- West Seneca West Middle School, 395 Center Rd, West Seneca, NY 14224: Register Here (First Dose)
- Claude and Ouida Clapp Hamlin Park School #74, 126 Donaldson Rd, Buffalo, NY 14208: Register Here (First Dose)
November 15, 2021
- Bennett High School, 2885 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14214: Ages 5-11 Register Here (First Dose)
November 20, 2021
- International Preparatory School PS 98, 110 14th St, Buffalo, NY 14213: Register Here (First Dose)
- Cloverbank Elementary, 2761 Cloverbank Rd, Hamburg, NY 14075: Register Here (First Dose)
- Sweet Home Central School, 1901 Sweet Home Rd, Buffalo, NY 14228: Register Here (First Dose)
Anyone looking to book a vaccination appointment in the region can click this link.