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Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, speaks during a press conference June 5. The group has filed a lawsuit against the State of California over a statewide mask mandate.
Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, speaks during a press conference June 5. The group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health over its statewide mask mandate at schools. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Parent groups file lawsuit against state over mask mandates

REGION – A San Diego-based group of parents filed a joint lawsuit last week against Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health in an effort to end the mask mandate for schools.

Co-plaintiffs Let Them Breathe and Reopen California Schools are still awaiting an initial hearing date.

Sharon McKeeman, a Carlsbad parent and founder of Let Them Breathe, was part of the parent group that sued the state and several school districts last year in an effort to reopen schools for in-person learning.

“It was very apparent to me that even though our kids were back to an in-person education, their academics, their mental health, their social development was all still really suffering because of the mask mandates, and Let Them Breathe has always been about choice,” McKeeman said. “So if a child wants to wear a mask, that should be their decision, but if a child, at this point, wants to unmask, that should also be okay.”

The lawsuit names Gov. Gavin Newsom, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, state Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón and the state’s Safe Schools for All team leader, Dr. Naomi Bardach as defendants.

McKeeman said the case has been assigned to Judge Cynthia Freeland, who also presided over the aforementioned lawsuit to reopen schools.

The Let Them Breathe group is made up of almost 15,000 members throughout California and is quickly growing.

“The vast majority of parents that we come in contact with are not just in support of mask choice, they are desperate for mask choice for their students because they see their children suffering behind the masks and they’re becoming so incredibly concerned over the anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, learning loss, social withdrawal and the list goes on of the mental, academic and social impacts of the forced masking on our kids,” McKeeman said.

California currently requires all adults and students to wear masks indoors in K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Masks aren’t required outdoors, and exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis for people with medical conditions.

According to the CDC’s school guidance, masks are needed indoors when physical distancing is not possible.

Some parents have expressed concerns on social media that if masks weren’t required, schools would be forced to implement physical distancing, which many schools have said they don’t have the space for, which would mean that not all students would be able to return to in-person learning.

McKeeman, who has four children in the Carlsbad Unified School District, said they are “following the science” and believe that kids are at a lower risk of getting COVID-19.

The CDC says children can contract and spread the coronavirus, but they are less likely than adults to show symptoms or get seriously sick from it.

The Delta variant is believed to be the most contagious and transmissible mutation of the virus that causes COVID-19, similar to chickenpox, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the CDC said currently available vaccines do help protect against the Delta variant, the agency recommends wearing a mask indoors in public areas or locations of substantial or high transmission.

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