Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Commissioners hear mixed messages from the public, public health experts

Elizabeth Holshew, who appeared with her son, Bryson, urged Henderson County commissioners to oppose the mask mandate in public schools. Elizabeth Holshew, who appeared with her son, Bryson, urged Henderson County commissioners to oppose the mask mandate in public schools.

Henderson County schools have the funding to hire a nurse in every school, thanks to the Board of Commissioners’ endorsement of a School Board recommendation.

Commissioners authorized the receipt of federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief money to fund five more school nurses, enough to install one in all 22 public schools.

The 4-1 vote, with Commissioner David Hill voting no, came three weeks ago after county residents used public comment opportunity to again implore the board to oppose the use of vaccinations and mask mandates and to defend the rights of people “who are trying to stay safe by not taking the vaccine, by not wearing masks and by not social distancing.”
Speakers opposed to the Covid vaccination and public health mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the newly surging pandemic far outnumber those in favor of precautions by a large margin. In fact, only one speaker has risen to defend the county public health department’s role in fighting the disease and commissioners themselves have barred the health department from spending money to promote vaccinations.

Contradictory messaging

The contradictory messaging of public health and elected officials nationally is exhibited dramatically at each meeting of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, where speakers condemn the vaccination and mask requirement, warn of vast government and pharmaceutical industry conspiracies and accuse commissioners of being duped if they promote vaccines or masks.

“Though there may be no monetary costs to the county (to add school nurses), we are infringing on a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children by whatever means,” David Nock warned commissioners at the Aug. 18 meeting. “I’m sure you can read between the lines the real agenda. This is all part of the June 15 Covid-19 response update from DHHS,” the state Department of Health and Human Services guidance launching a broad campaign to vaccinate as many students as possible.
Nock kicked off a parade of commenters warning against the vaccine, mask mandates and public gathering restrictions.
“The drug they are administering has never passed an animal trial test,” Phillip Ortiz said. “A hundred percent of the mice they administered it to all died after the administration. How can you possibly claim that it’s safe when it’s never passed an animal trial test? I’m just stunned.”

Kathy Yurista read a description provided by the School Board that additional nurses are needed for “vaccine management and distribution, central coordination of case investigation, testing oversight, ongoing support of long-term care facilities, schools, daycare centers and other institutions for testing, reporting and clinical guidance.
“That sounds more like a business,” she said. “The business of what? The business of more lockdowns, forced mandates and vaccine passports — not about saving lives. Aren’t you aware of the fact yet that many doctors around the world are treating their patients quickly and with great success using ivermectin and [hydroxychloroquine]? They’re the ones saving lives.
“Why are you not accepting this fact and offering it to our community? Haven’t you learned anything at all from all the compelling literature with numerous citations of scientific research that we presented to you over the last year so many times in so many ways? Why are you not accepting this? It all fell on deaf ears I guess. Why is that? Are they paying you to follow their protocol as they do for all the Covid patients? You think the shot is safe and effective? Then why are people dying in greater numbers than the Covid flu? How can you promote these injections, and did you know that if all these shots were FDA approved and there were only 25 deaths they would immediately stop using them like they did with the swine flu? Haven’t you heard that injection deaths as of today are way, way over 25? Is this why it’s kept under emergency use authorization? Is anybody really caring that more and more people are dying? … Why are you accepting and promoting contact tracing? There’s a whole protocol written on the health department’s website. Do we really believe this is an emergency situation or is it more about surveillance of the community? I hope your conscience is starting to talk to you because you’re taking part in the biggest crime against humanity. Stand up to these outrageous orders. Do you love and care for humanity?”

Carolyn Widener praised a “white coat summit” by America’s Front Line Doctors, an organization that opposes the Covid vaccine, and referred to a presentation by Ryan Cole, a Mayo Clinic-trained board certified pathologist with a specialty in immunology.
“This vaccine is an experiment,” she said. “It’s not approved. Dr. Ryan (Cole) says that humanity is the phase 3 trial. Humanity is the experiment. What’s going on here? Celebrities and movie stars and politicians are not censored when talking about the vaccine. Why are doctors and scientists censored when they discuss this experimental vaccine? Dr. Ryan Cole is among hundreds of doctors and scientists who say the Covid vaccine is a poisonous attack on the population and needs to stop now.”
Another speaker, Sheila Wildfeuer, cited the Ninth Amendment — “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” — and urged commissioners to protect their constituents’ right to ignore public health precautions.
“So an underrepresented right retained by the people … are the people who are trying to stay safe by not taking the vaccine, by not wearing masks and by not social distancing,” she said. “It’s not about convincing officials what’s right or wrong. It’s about the fact that these people also need to have their rights protected.”

‘Back into another surge’

The comments come as the cases are surging in Henderson County and across the country, especially in states whose leaders are resisting mask mandates and vaccination campaigns. The situation is dire enough locally to cause the Board of Health to issue a plea for people to get the shot — declaring at the same time respect for “anyone’s decision if they choose not to get vaccinated.”

“At our most recent meeting, board members assessed some of the unsettling data about current local trends with Covid-19: exponential increases with daily cases now averaging over 60, a testing positivity rate of more than 20%, increased hospitalizations and greater demand for ICU beds,” Maggie Hayes, chair of the Board of Health and a physician with Blue Ridge Community Health Services, said in the Aug. 25 letter to the community. “It was difficult to hear that our community was headed back into another surge.”

Commissioners also heard at the Aug. 18 meeting from a mom who begged them to force the School Board to drop the mask mandate. Elizabeth Holshew appeared with her son Bryson, 10, who was attending Fernleaf Community School, a public charter school in Fletcher, until she pulled him out because of the mask requirement.
“He has severe anxiety,” she said. “He’s had headaches every day. He told me he didn’t want to go to school anymore. We asked him why.”
Bryson broke in to answer. “It’s because of the mask,” he said. “I don’t like it.”
“He couldn’t be near his friends,” Holshew said. “And it’s such hypocrisy, if you look at it, that these officials in the schools, when nobody was looking, when I went into the office, they all had their masks off. As soon as they saw somebody, a parent, the mask went right up. It is a total farce.
“We are homeschooling him now. How many more (students) are you going to lose? Has anybody asked a child how they feel about the mask or the possibility of having them jabbed in the arm without their consent? I think somewhere along this line medicine and politics have merged. And it shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about the citizens of the United States and our children.”

‘Err on the side of freedom’

Although they did not align themselves directly with the anti-vaccination and anti-mask comments, two commissioners questioned the School Board’s vote on Aug. 9 to reverse its mask-optional decision and require masks.
Commissioner David Hill called on the School Board to reconsider the mandate.
“If kids have the flu bug at school which has went on for eons, which is common, I question why we have to quarantine somebody 14 days,” Hill said. “We’ve dealt with viruses since the good Lord created us and this one we’re treating totally different. Flu bug’s the flu bug — trust me, I’ve had both. I’ve had the Wuhan, I’ve had the flu. If I had to choose I would choose the Wuhan. The flu sucks.”
“If you got a cloth mask on like y’all do and the kids wore it all day long, they get pretty nasty,” he told schools Superintendent John Bryant and Public Health Director Steve Smith, who presented the request for the school nurse funding. “I don’t understand the 14 days. This thing, I guess you can call it Satan on earth because it’s apparently a superbug. We’ve treated this thing differently than any other thing has been treated before. These masks, and the things that have been done to these kids — keeping them out of school — is a whole lot worse than getting sick with the Wuhan. I think the School Board needs to go back and take a look at what they’ve done. … If we’re going to err on something, err on the side of freedom. For the board to have flip-flopped like it did is pretty disappointing.”
In response, Smith said: “Those quarantine and isolation issues are not developed locally” but are guided by the CDC and state DHHS. “It’s tied to how they view the seriousness of the disease related to morbidity and mortality.” The 14-day quarantine is intended to limit exposure to other people. “We can debate all day if it’s warranted or the seriousness of the disease. I think it certainly affects different people differently,” Smith added.

‘Follow systems not wearing masks’

Commissioner Rebecca McCall urged school administrators to look for successful mask-optional school districts in South Carolina, which had the highest rate of new Covid cases in the U.S. as of Tuesday and was reporting hospitalizations near last winter’s peak.
McCall cited a study showing numerous bacteria and toxins found on masks children wore all day and said mask-optional school districts in South Carolina may show that masks aren’t necessary.
“What about — and even Dr. Mandy Cohen said this — children don’t spread this disease like adults do,” she said. She urged school administrators to “follow the systems that are not wearing masks and check their dashboards and compare what’s happening there to what’s happening here because here and in South Carolina kids are kids and if they are being successful there with masks optional and not seeing the spikes and clusters then I think we should go back and relook at what we are doing.”
Bryant responded: “What I can assure you that the Board of Education has done is deliberate over this for hours and hours and hours and hours. We are monitoring all environments — those that are requiring face coverings, those that are not, those that are looking at other mitigation measures, in order that we can be lead learners ourselves. These have been long dialogues.”

A speaker praises public health response

Among the public comment speakers at the top of that meeting, only one, Paul Weichselbaum, rose to praise the health department for its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wish to commend the Henderson County Department of Public Health for its excellent, effective and thoughtful approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “The department’s response has been systemic, well-informed and thorough. The department has worked with unstinting effort to manage a once-in-a-century challenge and shown exemplary responsiveness to the needs, conditions and concerns of all people in Henderson County. It’s my understanding that the Board of Commissioners joins (in ensuring) that the Health Department uses all its resources to help our county stay as healthy and safe as possible despite the pandemic’s often unpredictable twists and turns, which has strained the health care capacity of counties across the nation, sometimes beyond the breaking point.
“The steep learning curve has required the department to constantly develop and finetune a complex range of strategies and tactics to mitigate Covid-19 as best as can be done. It’s my hope that as appropriate the board will make clear to all its support for the department and that the board will continue to urge the public to attend to the department’s updates, its well-founded data collection and communications and its guidance regarding vaccinations, mask protocols, protection of children and the people with whom they come in contact and other emergency safety measures. Finally, it’s heartening to see that the Henderson County health care and first responder community and other organizations have worked above and beyond, often at risk of their own health, and have been effective partners in a coordinated public health response to the pandemic.”