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Newport Beach City Council members are the latest local officials to take a stand against the school mask requirement, despite having no authority of schools or the statewide classroom mask mandate.

City council members adopted a resolution in support of allowing children to go maskless at school and not getting a Coronavirus vaccine if a parent decides that it is not in the best interest of their children. 

“The reason I put this on, is because there were a lot of voices to be heard. And they were frequent and steady and it almost feels like a dereliction of duty, if we just don’t respond,” said Councilman Noah Blom, who requested the item be agendized. “If we don’t speak up, then we’re just compliant.”

Blom added the city likes to have it’s local control and the resolution is about helping empower the local school board and freedom of choice. 

“They also feel like their hands are tied. They also feel like they have a hard time fighting against the state and state mandated health rules. But I think things like this help get that ball rolling and help show them that there’s a huge amount of community that cares about this”

Councilman Noah Blom

The council voted 6-1 at their public meeting Tuesday.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner was the dissenting vote, saying the resolution further polarizes the community and the city has not done its own research into the matter.

“This is not an issue that we have investigated or had staff work on, or we’ve done any kind of formal outreach to the medical professionals, although we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from medical professionals,” she said. “And my biggest concern is that this is not our lane.”

Brenner added that while not many advocates of the mask mandate showed up to speak at the meeting, the council has received many emails from people on the other side of the issue.

Meanwhile, local public health experts are urging people to wear masks and abide by the mandate at schools.

“We already know that transmission occurs when people are not masked when they’re indoors, and it can actually happen when you’re outdoors,” Deputy OC Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said in a Wednesday press conference. “ It’s in everyone’s best interest to mask up.”

Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are recommending universal indoor mask wearing at schools.

Children under 12 years old are still ineligible to get the vaccine.

For a little more than an hour at Tuesday’s meeting, people sounded off against the mask mandates, calling for parental choice and thanking the council for taking a stand. 

Some in the audience had signs that read “Masking Kids Is Child Abuse.”

Nancy Skinner, a Newport Beach resident, was the only person during public comment who opposed the resolution.

“If you feel like you want to participate in this — is that you would actually use your strength and energy to advocate for getting this COVID over with faster. And the only way we could do that is to get more people vaccinated,” Skinner said.

Her comments received boos from the crowd.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to take on this particular issue when probably half the city may not agree with it because the real issue is trying to end this pandemic”

Nancy Skinner

Councilman Will O’Neill supported the resolution and said the city takes stands in favor of local control all the time.

“We do so on our behalf, we’ll do so on behalf of our school district and I think that that’s entirely appropriate and continues to be appropriate and we should do it again and again and again, anytime Sacramento is stripping our school board or us of local authority on issues that affect our kids,” he said during the meeting.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon acknowledged that the council doesn’t have jurisdiction over schools and called on people to show up in Sacramento and have their voices heard.

“The fight has to be at Sacramento,” she said at the meeting. “[Newport-Mesa Unified School District is] not the target. They’re the implementer of the state’s mandate and the consequences of not following through on the state’s mandate is they lose state funding, they get penalized, they get fined.”

The Newport Beach resolution was originally brought before the city council at their July 27 meeting but was continued to the Aug. 24 meeting.

Approval of the resolution comes after the city officials canceled their local coronavirus emergency in June.

The resolution states that children are less likely to get symptomatic COVID-19, that repeated masking wearing can be harmful overtime and that a majority of adults and children over the age of 12 have already been vaccinated.

It also says that children aged five and younger should not be required to wear a mask citing both the World Health Organization as well as the United Nations’ Children Fund.

“The City Council commits to supporting local schools as they return to normal, including advocating for local schools that oppose state mandates requiring masks and vaccines”

The city resolution attached to the agenda

The Newport Beach resolution is in response to mandates for K-12 schools put out by the California Department of Public Health in July mandating masks at schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The mandates have faced pushback from some students and parents in Orange County who have been rallying at local school board meetings organized by groups like “Let Them Breathe,” urging district trustees to make mask wearing optional.

But Orange County school districts can not adopt less restrictive mandates than the state.

Despite this, school districts like Saddleback Valley, Capistrano and the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified passed resolutions calling on the state to rethink their school mask mandate and make them optional for students.

So has the Orange County Board of Education.

Earlier this month, the Board took it a step further and tried to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over the school mask mandate which they argued lacks “sound medical or scientific basis.”

Eight days later the California Supreme Court denied the petition.

[ Read: California Supreme Court Swiftly Denies OC Board of Education School Mask Mandate Petition ]

The mask debate has also popped off at a recent Newport-Mesa Unified School District meeting with people on both sides of the issue speaking out.

“Be advocates for parental choice when it comes to masking and vaccinating our own children,” said parent Lindsay Murad. “You have people who elected you to push back on the state mandates and tell the state you want the control back for this community.”

Others spoke in favor of masks.

“Why would you now exaggerate the wearing of a mask to be more than what it is which is to protect the health and well being of your child,” retired teacher Dorie Krepton at the district board told people against masks. 

“A masked kid is a safe kid.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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