Calls for the Ellensburg School Board to defy Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask mandate continued to be heard at Wednesday’s Ellensburg School Board meeting.
The board did not change course on its decision to comply with the mandate, but it did approve drafting a letter to Inslee to express its concerns. The letter will be presented at the next board meeting.
Parental concerns mentioned Wednesday were similar to comments raised at a meeting earlier in August — primarily centered on the parent’s right to determine what is best for their child rather than the school district or state.
Prior to the public comment portion of the meeting, Kittitas County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson updated the board on the status of the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination efforts in the community.
According to Larson:
• 98% of COVID-19 cases in Kittitas County are the Delta variant.
• 95% of the beds at KVH are full (not all COVID cases)
• The county’s rate of 391 cases per 100,000 classifies it as a high transmission area
• Five COVID-19 cases at KVH are all unvaccinated patients
• COVID-19 cases from Kittitas County include a 24-year-old at Virginia Mason in Seattle and a 23-year-old at KVH
• 49% of the county is vaccinated
• 21% of county residents between the ages of 12 and 16 are vaccinated
Larson said his main concern heading into the school year is the Kittitas County Fair and Ellensburg Rodeo slated for Labor Day weekend prior to the start of school.
“We may see more disease at the start of the school year and then it will go down,” Larson said.
Larson said he has advocated for local control at the state level, pointing out that last year, the health department in conjunction with the school district and the assistance of staff and students went the year without an instance of COVID being spread in classrooms — students did contract COVID but from outside the school.
“One of the problems we’ve had with COVID have been inconsistent guidelines or guidelines that change rapidly,” Larson said.
Ellensburg School District Superintendent Jinger Haberer said the district will change the way it has notice parents of COVID-19 cases for the coming school year.
In the past parents received email notifications for cases at the school their child attended. Haberer said this year, updates on case numbers will be posted on a COVID dashboard on the district’s website.