FRESNO COUNTY, California. (KSEE/KGPE) – The CEO of a Fresno-area hospital is challenging comments made by Clovis Unified school board trustees about the COVID-19 pandemic during a board meeting last week.
In a 6-page letter to Clovis school board President Dr. Stephen Fogg, Valley Children’s Healthcare CEO Todd Sunatrapak countered some of the comments made by trustees about the hospital and the COVID-19 pandemic during a board meeting on Thursday, July 29, describing them as ‘inaccurate’ and ‘wildly flawed.’
Sunatrapak also responded to claims that guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not useful because it isn’t a local organization, and that the Fresno Department of Public Health doesn’t understand the current state of the pandemic in Clovis because ‘they are responsible for the whole.’
“A pandemic does not respect the boundary line that makes a demarcation between the city of Clovis, or its school district, apart from Fresno or Selma or Madera,” Sunatrapak wrote. “I truly believe your Board
did not mean to accept the flawed position that CUSD could possibly have a separate and distinct COVID experience, carved out from the rest of Fresno County, California or the nation.”
Sunatrapak goes on to challenge the point further by saying that the school board has no issue following guidelines from other non-local professional organizations when it comes to topics like math, music, and sports.
The letter also addressed a claim that a trustee had reportedly made, saying they had been to Valley Children’s Hospital and ‘didn’t find a lot of people in the ICU that were being treated for COVID.” Sunatrapak says the comment doesn’t serve as proof that coronavirus cases aren’t prevalent or significant in the area, and that “anyone wandering around Valley Children’s Intensive Care Units without authorization raises serious patient safety and privacy issues.”
In the letter, Sunatrapak shared statistics from state health officials, showing that 13.1% of COVID-19 cases statewide have been in children ages 0-17.
“I realize the debate is passionate regarding masks, but as one who deals daily with the emotional trauma that strikes too many of our families, I implore you to weigh this carefully,” wrote Sunatrapak. “There is a significant amount of evidence about kids, COVID-19, and the
science behind masks to slow its spread.”
During the meeting on July 29, the Clovis Unified School District board had met to discuss its COVID-19 guidelines, just less than three weeks before students are expected back in the classroom.
Parents and students gathered outside of the meeting to protest the mask mandate, but the board made the decision to follow the requirements issued by the California Department of Public Health. The decision will require K-12 students to wear masks while indoors, and that staff members wear them indoors while around students, regardless of vaccination status. However, parents have the option of filling out an attestation form, saying their kids shouldn’t have to wear a mask or should be wearing something less restrictive, like a face shield, due to things like a mental health issue, physical disability, or a medical condition.
The school board also adopted a resolution during the meeting that will be sent to the state, asking for more local control over guidelines related to COVID-19, such as mask-wearing.
The day prior to the meeting, the Fresno County Department of Public Health unveiled a concerning trend, showing emergency visits due to COVID-19 in those who are under 18 years old have exceeded visits from the 65 and older population.