Miller to anti-mask crowd: Our schools have not been super-spreaders

Jeffco School Board member speaks at mask mandate protest

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/11/21

Susan Miller, the Jeffco School Board member most likely to be found on the other side of policy issues from her school board counterparts, took to the microphone Aug. 9, adding her voice to hundreds …

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Miller to anti-mask crowd: Our schools have not been super-spreaders

Jeffco School Board member speaks at mask mandate protest

Posted

Susan Miller, the Jeffco School Board member most likely to be found on the other side of policy issues from her school board counterparts, took to the microphone Aug. 9, adding her voice to hundreds in the county protesting the school district’s mask mandate for children aged 3-11.

In her speech to the crowd, she said the district should take the benefits of vaccination, ventilation and filtration into account to come to a more data-driven decision about mask wearing in schools.

“This is what adults do,” she said. “We weigh all of the evidence to protect our children. We do not ask them to protect us.”

In an interview after her speech, Miller made clear that she was speaking as a private citizen and not in an official capacity. 

She said in her opinion the district should be weighing the risk (of infection) unmasked students would face being in “healthy schools” for a certain number of hours each day. 

Referring to risk assessment models that can be used to predict risk in a particular classroom, she said there are ways to mitigate transmission levels among students.

“If we find that there are higher levels of carbon monoxide in a classroom — if it’s a choir room or a band room — where you have more aerosols being spread around due to the activity taking place, you’re going to be able to put HEPA filter machines in those rooms to better circulate your air,” she said.

Asked if data she’s basing her opinions on was taking into consideration the higher transmission rates and lack of student-related data of the COVID-19 Delta variant, Miller said yes.

She again said there are models to predict transmission rates for masked versus unmasked individuals.She talked about the differences in effectiveness between different types of masks, saying “N-95 masks stop aerosols. Cute little cloth masks do not stop aerosols.”

Miller said the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has suggested wearing a medical mask, but the masks most students are wearing aren’t sufficient to prevent aerosol transmission.

“Your little one is wearing a superhero mask and that’s really cute, but is that going to stop them from having aerosols flying around the room?”

She said she wants to know what the benefit of masking children is. In her opinion it’s trivial compared to learning losses masks contribute to. 

Miller pointed to a recent presentation given to school principals by Superintendent Tracy Dorland related to pandemic learning loss and the the low reading scores in the district as examples.

“We already have 58% of our kids that are not on reading level in third grade,” Miller said. “The chances of them ever catching up are very, very slight.”

Miller encouraged parents to reach out to their child’s school to find out about improvements in air filtration and ventilation if they have questions.

Meanwhile, Jeffco students will return to school Aug. 17. The district has announced that it will require children aged 3-11 to wear masks, and recommend all students, even those vaccinated, to remain masked while inside schools.

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