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Alysson Hartmann
Alysson Hartmann, co-organizer of ReOpen San Diego, works a booth during “Smile Fest” on July 10 at Mission Church in Carlsbad. Hartmann and others are lobbying for mask choice in schools. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Residents gather to voice support for mask choice in schools

CARLSBAD — Parents from local groups Let Them Breathe and ReOpen San Diego held a rally July 10 at Mission Church in Carlsbad Village calling for the state to allow students to attend school without masks.

Sharon McKeeman and Alysson Hartmann, who founded and co-founded Let Them Breathe and ReOpen San Diego, respectively, said the current COVID-19 mandates by the state will be challenged in court. Both women said students must be allowed a choice to wear a mask.

The state, meanwhile, announced last week it will continue mask and other health requirements for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. As a result, McKeeman said their groups will be assisting with a lawsuit against the state should it move forward with the mandates.

She said the suit may be filed within the next two or three weeks.

“This was good timing to have this event,” McKeeman said. “It is safe to unmask and it’s essential we have mask choice as soon as possible.”

At the event, dubbed “Smile Fest,” there were booths and vendors, along with several speakers including Supervisor Jim Desmond, Mike Slater, of the Mike Slater Show, and David Chiddick, of Koffie Company, and Michael Seifert, of Public Square, to name a few.

McKeeman said there are concerns with the Centers for Disease Control’s latest guidelines, although her group is more aligned with the position of the California Department of Public Health. She said the state health department is not requiring proof of vaccine status, while the CDC policy may be discriminatory.

“He has worked tirelessly to keep our communities open and help our families thrive and put our kids first,” McKeeman said of Desmond.

Meanwhile, Desmond said there is no reason why the county can’t reopen, including schools, and beat the virus at the same time. Desmond said Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state are using kids as shields.

Desmond added it should be left to the parents to make medical decisions best for their children and not the government. He said seniors and those individuals with underlying health conditions are at the most risk, not children.

“Moms and dads know what’s best for their kids,” Desmond said. “Thanks for having a backbone.”

As for the CDPH, the agency said schools are resuming in-person instruction because it is critical for children, families and communities, and with the right precautions, it can stop the spread of the virus.

However, students and staff must continue wearing masks and continue social distancing, among others.

“New evidence and data about COVID-19 transmission, including variations by age, and the effectiveness of disease control and mitigation strategies continues to emerge regularly,” the CDPH said on its website. “Recommendations regarding in-person school reopening and closure should be based on the latest available evidence as well as state and local disease trends and we will update this guidance as needed to reflect new evidence.”