Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional

Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional

Dozens of parents and children held a protest outside their suburban Chicago Catholic school after the principal of was placed on leave for announcing that masks would be optional for children and teachers.

Doc Mathius announced he was dropping the mask mandate at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, Chicago last week – in defiance of the Archdiocese of Chicago who have mandated masks across its schools.

The Archdiocese responded quickly by placing the popular principal on disciplinary leave. 

Mathius told WGN that he knew he was likley to be suspended or fired for taking a stand against masks but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.  

‘I expected to be terminated,’ he said. ‘I expected extreme pushback, so I was not surprised.’

The decision has outraged local parents who are demanding Mathius be reinstated. 

Doc Mathius was placed on disciplinary leave after announced he was dropping the mask mandate at his school

Doc Mathius was placed on disciplinary leave after announced he was dropping the mask mandate at his school 

The decision has outraged local parents who are demanding Mathius be reinstated

The decision has outraged local parents who are demanding Mathius be reinstated

Dozens of parents braved the slush and snow on Sunday to protest outside the school, waving banners that said 'We Love Doc' and American flags as they rallied in support

Dozens of parents braved the slush and snow on Sunday to protest outside the school, waving banners that said ‘We Love Doc’ and American flags as they rallied in support

Parents described him as 'a man of integrity, of leadership' and slammed the Archdiocese for their decision

Parents described him as ‘a man of integrity, of leadership’ and slammed the Archdiocese for their decision

Even little ones helped wave their signs and banners as the community demanded the return of their teacher

Even little ones helped wave their signs and banners as the community demanded the return of their teacher 

Dozens of parents braved the slush and snow on Sunday to protest outside the school, waving banners that said ‘We Love Doc’ and American flags as they rallied in support.

Parents described him as ‘a man of integrity, of leadership’ and slammed the Archdiocese for their decision. 

‘It’s ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous,’ parent John Murzyn told WGN. 

‘Doc Mathius would take a bullet for anyone. He has the kids’ best interests at heart in mind. I’m not so sure the archbishop does.

‘I’m hoping the Archdiocese reconsiders this move because in my opinion, it wasn’t a good one by them.’

One parent, Andrew Tourville, told NBC Chicago that it meant ‘so much to us’ that Mathius had ‘stood up for our children.’

Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional Mathius made the announcement for students and teachers at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, Chicago last week - in defiance of the Archdiocese of Chicago who have mandated masks across its schools

Mathius made the announcement for students and teachers at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, Chicago last week – in defiance of the Archdiocese of Chicago who have mandated masks across its schools

Mathius said that his heart was breaking to be separated from the school and his students but that he felt ' it was worth doing

Mathius said that his heart was breaking to be separated from the school and his students but that he felt ‘ it was worth doing

‘When he took that stand, and he was immediately put on disciplinary leave for doing so,’ he added . ‘A lot of these children are showing signs of depression, and they’re not able to fully communicate with their teachers and…with each other,’ the parent continued.

Mathius said that his heart was breaking to be separated from the school and his students but that he felt ‘it was worth doing.’ 

‘I had nothing to gain by this, only to lose,’ Mathius said. ‘Principals come and go. That parish and school has stood there a long time and I want nothing but the best for it.’

The Archdiocese declined to comment when reached by both NBC and WGN.

Chicago schools have been allowed to choose whether or not to keep their mandates after a judge filed a restraining order earlier this month against Illinois’ Governor J.B. Pritzker’s executive order mandating masks in schools until March 6. The state of Illinois is appealing. 

Meanwhile, officials in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon have now announced plans to lift their mandates as they seek a return to ‘normalcy.’

Others, like New York, have lifted their indoor mask mandates but have insisted on keeping them in schools for now. 

Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional Covid US: Chicago Catholic school principal placed on leave after making masks optional

Private $57,000-a-year NYC school is forced into U-turn on its mask-optional policy after being warned they were in ‘violation’ of Gov. Hochul’s mandate for kids in classrooms

A private NYC school reversed their decision to make masks optional, after state health officials warned they were in violation of Governor Kathy Hochul’s mandate.

The $57,000-a-year Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn had announced on Thursday that students would be allowed to chose whether or not to wear a mask.

But just one day later, it emailed students’ parents saying that the school had been forced to change their optional mask policy because it did not follow state or city mandates. 

Parents were asked to ensure that their children were sent to school wearing a mask on Monday.  

The optional masking policy had been originally announced amid a decline of cases in NYC and at the school as well as Hochul’s decision to end the statewide indoor mask mandate. The policy continued to apply for schoolchildren.

An official from the New York State Health Department had also communicated with the school over the concerns in the former change in policy.

‘We worked with the school and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the school agreed to delay its plan to no longer require masks until such a policy is permitted,’ spokesperson Jill Montag said. ‘We are glad they decided to do the right thing.’

New York private academy Poly Prep Country Day School has reversed their decision to apply a mask-optional order after being slammed by health officials

New York private academy Poly Prep Country Day School has reversed their decision to apply a mask-optional order after being slammed by health officials

New York Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the statewide indoor mask mandate for indoor businesses on Wednesday but still required schoolchildren to wear them

New York Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the statewide indoor mask mandate for indoor businesses on Wednesday but still required schoolchildren to wear them

In response to the policy removal, families expressed disappointment in the decision.

‘I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,’ one of the mothers told the New York Post. ‘The administration had universal support to do what they did. 

‘Parents are tired of this. We should have some say, the school should have some say, she added.  

‘To be honest I could see this coming,’ another parent added. ‘They weren’t going to let this happen. Simple as that.’

Despite the negative reception, Hochul has said she plans to review future decisions for the mask mandate in March.

‘We know some of our youngest learners may be disappointed or confused regarding this change in plans,’ school health director Sarah Zuercher wrote in the email. 

‘When speaking with your children, we recommend discussing the need to be flexible in life.’  

‘We look forward to a return to normalcy as soon as is permissible,’ she added in the email.       

School health director Sarah Zuercher said that students will have to begin wearing masks again on Monday

School health director Sarah Zuercher said that students will have to begin wearing masks again on Monday

Zuercher had sent a previous email to parents regarding the previous decision to make the mask mandate optional on Thursday.

‘In the past few weeks we have seen sharp declines in COVID cases at Poly and in NYC,’ the email, which was posted online, reads. ‘In addition, we have had minimal in-school transmission of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

‘In light of these sharp declines in case counts, and our most up-to-date evidence, wearing masks will be optional beginning on February 14  for all students and employees.’  

In its decision to lift the school’s mask mandate, officials at Poly Prep said there have been no COVID-related hospitalizations or serious cases at the school, and that all documented cases have been ‘mild to asymptomatic,’ according to the Post.

As Zuercher explained to the school’s newspaper, the Polygon: ‘We’ve seen a very sharp decline in COVID cases here at school and in the community. 

‘As we look at the layers of our COVID safety strategy, we don’t need to keep all the layers as we always have as COVID cases go down.

‘While [masking] can be very effective, with Omicron being highly contagious, we think it’s one of the less effective mitigation strategies when you look at everything we’re doing – testing, vaccination, boosters [and] air filtration.’

She added that studies have shown that for children, masks ‘might inhibit language acquisition, social and emotional development [and] their ability to read facial cues.’

‘We will support each individual’s choice,’ Zuercher said, ‘and will follow up immediately if our mask-optional policy must change.’  

On Wednesday, Hochul announced the end of the state’s indoor mask mandate, although it remains in effect at state-regulated facilities including schools, health care facilities, adult care facilities and nursing homes, correctional facilities, childcare centers, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and on public transit.

She said in her announcement that New York was ‘trending in a very, very good direction’ – citing case and hospitalization rates – and is ‘now approaching a new phase in this pandemic.’ 

‘We are not where we were in early December. New Yorkers did the right thing to get through the winter surge, and we can now lift the statewide mask-or-vaccine requirement for indoor businesses starting tomorrow,’ Hochul said, adding: ‘Counties, cities and businesses can still choose to require masks.’ 

The state’s mask mandate for students, however, will remain in effect state-wide.

‘Masks have been a successful part of our toolkit to fight COVID, and New Yorkers must keep wearing them in certain places throughout the state,’ Hochul said during Wednesday’s press conference.

She said she will revisit the school mask mandate come March, but said in the meantime officials are taking steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 ahead of midwinter break. 

In the meantime, all K-12 students and their families will be provided a state issued ‘winter tool kit’ that involves sending children home with COVID testing kits ahead of the school recess. They will then be tested again upon return from break. 

Hochul said officials will use this data to make further decisions about masking in classrooms. 

A #MandateFreedom rally was organized by the People's Coalition for New York on Friday to protest mask mandates

A #MandateFreedom rally was organized by the People’s Coalition for New York on Friday to protest mask mandates

On Friday, the state of New York reported 4,873,548 cases and 66, 276 deaths.

The statewide positivity rate is now 4.92 percent with 98,520,534 tests administered.

In terms of vaccination status, 37,211,046 doses have been administered with 74.36 percent of the state population fully jabbed.

For the US, 77,428,574 cases have been confirmed with 915,434 deaths recorded.

Additionally, 545,981,537 doses have been administered with 65.06 percent fully vaccinated. 

Officials in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon have now announced plans to lift their mandates as they seek a return to ‘normalcy.’  

But when one man attended a school board meeting in upstate New York on Tuesday he was forcibly dragged out of the room by a security guard. 

Dave Calus told Kimberly’s Revolution he proceeded to the board room where the Webster School Board meeting was taking place, but was met by staff who told him that if he didn’t wear a mask, he would be placed in isolation during the meeting. 

‘They were segregating masked and unmasked parents,’ he explained. ‘The unmasked parents were going to have to sit in a classroom with a video monitoring watching and listening to the board meeting.’

He said he was placed in the classroom and decided ‘this isn’t going to work for me.’ Calus then walked down to the main board room and was once again instructed to wear a mask.

Parents and children gathered at the Westchester County courthouse to protest masks in classrooms

Parents and children gathered at the Westchester County courthouse to protest masks in classrooms

‘I took a mask from the person who handed it to me, looped it around my ear, walked into the room, and sat down and put the mask in my pocket,’ he recalled.

He said he remained seated for 15 to 20 minutes before being approached by a security guard who demanded he put the mask on. 

Webster Police Department, issuing a statement on Facebook, said their officers were not involved in the incident but they are conducting an investigation. After the investigation is complete, the department will determine whether ‘charges are appropriate’.   

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also said it continues to stand by its mask-wearing guidelines for schools, saying COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still ‘too high’ to consider dropping restrictions despite daily infections having declined by 47 percent over the past seven days. 

‘Right now our CDC guidance has not changed. We continue to endorse universal masking in schools,’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a radio interview with WYPR on Tuesday. ‘We owe it to our children to make sure that they can safely stay in school. Right now, that includes masking. We’ve seen outbreaks that have occurred in communities where students were not masked in schools and had to close.’ 

The Biden administration doubled down on wearing face masks – even though eight Democratic governors have rolled back COVID restrictions, cases and hospitalizations have plummeted and one of America’s closest allies England has completely scrapped all rules. 

‘Our guidance is consistently has consistently been this: when you are in a high transmission area, which is everywhere in the country, you should wear a mask and indoor settings, including schools,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her press briefing on Wednesday. 

When asked if people should follow the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which are to wear a face covering, instead of listening to their governor, Psaki responded: ‘Yes.’

She conceded some people are tired of wearing masks but added there are many who still want to have one on.

‘People are tired of masks,’ Psaki said, adding, however, ‘there were also a huge chunk of people who still want masks.’

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