Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Lindgren to Resign from Pottsgrove School Board

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Pottsgrove School Board President Robert Lindgren announced his resignation last night.

Pottsgrove School Board President Robert Lindgren announced his resignation at the end of Tuesday night's meeting.

Lindgren said he has taken a job in Richmond, Va. and so must step down. Last night was his last meeting.

His resignation takes effect Sept. 24 and the school board has 30 days to name a replacement.

Lindgren was elected in 2017 so his term was up and he was not seeking reelection. 

Solicitor Marc Davis said whomever the board selects to replace him will only serve until the end of November.

There are no contests for the four open school board seats in November and the only person running for the board who is not an incumbent is Joe Vecchio.

Lindgren was thanked by other board members. Tina McIntyre and Charles Nippert both said Lindgren had been a supportive mentor and Patti Grimm thanked him for both his service on the board and in the Navy Reserve, for which he served in Afghanistan.

Board member Ashley Custer joked "sometimes you really irritated people, but you were always the rock." Lindgren practiced the respect that he preached, she said.

"It's been a great ride and I wish you all the best," said Lindgren

Lindgren thanked the Pottsgrove community, saying unlike in some other places, people had remained civil and respectful even though there were strong disagreements about how the district handled COVID, particularly the current mask mandate.

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James Troutman speaks to the Pottsgrove School
Board Tuesday night.
And some of those disagreements were on animated display Tuesday night.

Three of the four people who spoke out against requiring masks in school last month -- Dustin DiTello, Andrew Korman and Katie Coppa -- were back to express their views on the subject again Tuesday night.

Another speaker, James Troutman said the mask mandate, which he called "a medical experiment and compared to "Nazi medical crimes," told the board he had formed a group called Pottsgrove Parents Against Discrimination.

One of the aspects of Nazi medical experiments, Troutman said, was that the subjects could not give their consent. He noted "children can not give consent, only their parents can. Call it a loophole all you want. It's what we Americans call checks and balances."

He added later "teaching this fear is child abuse."

Another speaker to make reference to Nazis spoke through the Zoom platform. Jeannette Clifton was the second speaker to refer to the Nuremberg trials.

Clifton paraphrased a quote often attributed on Facebook to Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering which reads: "The only thing a government needs to turn people into slaves is fear. If you can find something to scare them you can make them do anything you want."

The only problem is, he never said that.

Agence France-Presse has debunked that quote as coming from Goering during his testimony at the Nuremberg trials noting  "no trace of the purported quote can be found in the Nuremberg trials archive."

AFP notes the quote gained currency on Facebook after being used by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who, it said, "has been shown to spread conspiracy theories about the pandemic."

The Reuters news agency also debunked the quote being from Goering at Nuremberg and said it gained traction on social media after being posted by rock musician Ted Nugent.

However, according to AFP,  Goering did, say something in that vein in an interview with American psychologist G.M. Gilbert. who collected the testimonies of Nazi leaders, and which was cited in Gilbert's book "Nuremberg Diaries." 

Gilbert quotes Goering as saying the following: 

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

This would seem to be a more accurate description of the U.S. "War on Terror" than a global pandemic, but I digress.

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Jamie O'Neill addresses the Pottsgrove
School Board Tuesday night.
Jamie O'Neill urged the board to make wearing a mask in school voluntary and said if that meant the district had to lose the roughly $4 million in federal COVID aid, "do it."

"Real science is not backing your arbitrary powers," she said. "You
are violating civil liberties of your students."

Coppa told the Pottsgrove School Board that with the mask mandate, children are "bearing the brunt of a disease that does not, statistically, affect them."

Those statistics are changing.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported "Coronavirus cases among school-age children in Pennsylvania were nearly 10 times greater last week than during the same period in 2020, state health officials said Monday, with local officials saying the rise could be due to a variety of factors, including the highly transmissible delta variant, the return of in-person school, and an increase in testing."

The paper reported that "between Sept. 2 and Sept. 8, nearly 5,400 Pennsylvania children between ages 5 and 18 had confirmed infections, according to the state Department of Health, compared to 574 children who were infected during the same week in 2020, when most children were in virtual school and delta was not circulating."

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Katie Coppa addresses the Pottsgrove School
Board at Tuesday night's meeting.

Coppa criticized the administration for requiring a doctor's note for a student to be excused from wearing a mask when that requirement is not applied when a parent informs a school their child has a peanut allergy.

(At least two people following Tweets of the meeting, who have children with food allergies, said a doctor's note is absolutely required.)

Coppa later said "in the United Kingdom, children not wearing masks in schools, yet their numbers are declining since peaking in July," adding, "I recognize I am not going to change anyone's mind about masks."

However, the assertion that "their numbers are dropping" begs context.

According to the Reuters news agency, on Tuesday night the United Kingdom was reporting 339 COVID infections per 100K people reported in the last 7 days. 

The infections there did peak on July 18 at 47,599. Then they did drop, then rose again to 37,179 on Sept. 7. and dropped again to 28,614 on Sept. 12. 

For purposes of comparison, the United Kingdom reported only 1,607 new infections on May 1 and had kept its rate under 3,000 per day until the end of May, with a sharp spike starting in mid June.

"Starting in June, case numbers quickly increased before peaking in mid-July, which roughly mirrors the last few months of the school calendar (in the United Kingdom). For the 13 million people in England under the age of 20, daily virus cases rose from about 600 in mid-May to 12,000 in mid-July, according to government data. Test positivity rates were highest among children and young adults — ages 5 to 24 — but they were also the least likely to be vaccinated," the Times reported.

Korman, who said he "stands for truth, health and freedom," also looked to other nations for comparison. "In Singapore today, cases are up 1,028 percent in past 3 weeks despite mask mandates in place for 17 months" and a very high vaccination rate.

But the size of that big percentage hike has much to do with how low Singapore's infection rate has been for those 17 months.

According to Reuters, from Oct. 5, 2020 until July 10, 2021, Singapore has kept its infections-per-100,000 people rate in the single digits due, perhaps to the mask mandates and high vaccination rates Korman mentioned.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Singapore, a nation of nearly 6 million people, has reported a grand total of 58 COVID-related deaths, according to Reuters -- a death percentage of .0009666 percent of the population. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United States, a nation of 328 million people, has reported 663,828 COVID-related deaths, according to Reuters -- a death percentage of .0202386 of the population. 

This means the COVID-related death rate in the U.S., which has fought and in some states outlawed mask mandates, and has a lower vaccination rate, is nearly 21 times higher than Singapore.
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Andrew Korman speaks to the Pottsgrove School
Board Tuesday night.

On the same night Korman cited those statistics, Reuters reported a COVID rate of 59 infections per 100,000 people in Singapore in the last seven days.

On the same night, Reuters posted a rate of 378 infections per 100,000 people in the United States in the last seven days. 

To take it down to an even more local level, on the same night Koman spoke to the school board, USAFacts reported 159 COVID cases per 100,000 in Montgomery County in the last seven days. It reported 127 COVID cases per 100,000 people in Chester County in the last seven days. It reported 118 COVID cases per 100,000 people in Berks County in the last seven days, meaning all three counties have COVID infection rates twice that of Singapore's spike.

If you're wondering about the source of this information, according to its web site, USA Facts is a "nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative without a political agenda." It has "previously partnered with academic institutions and experts like the Penn Wharton Budget Model’s (PWBM) and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) to help keep our data accurate and unbiased."

Saying the pandemic is "perhaps more of a plandemic," Korman, who wore a shirt indicating he has survived having the virus, said "you've all been lied to. The government doesn't love freedom, it loves control. It's about putting a boot on someone's neck."

He said the measures being taken to control COVID have brought on "a shadow pandemic" of other impacts like depression and a rise in youth suicides. 

Statistics show there is indeed an increase in youth depression, youth suicide ideation and youth suicides since the pandemic began. 

According to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report put out by the non-profit agency Mental Health America -- a 110-year-old non-profit agency dedicated to addressing the needs of those with mental illness -- 9.7 percent of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2 percent in last year’s dataset. This rate was highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4 percent.

Happily, the same report notes that Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for having lower prevalence of mental illness and higher rates of access to care for youth.

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Dustin DiTello arrives at the microphone
during Tuesday night's meeting.
DiTello made a particular statement about the mask mandate by wearing a Halloween mask when he came to the microphone to speak.

He said that "we didn't vote for the department of health" and it's mandates and that in the primary election, Gov. Wolf "lost his powers," in apparent reference to the change that removed the governor's power to indefinitely extends state of emergency declarations with the approval of the legislature.

DiTello played a recording of an interview with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Faucci from several years ago which was intended to undermine Faucci's support for mask mandates. 

"You are cowards," he told the board, for not standing up to government mandates. 

DiTello said there is no science behind Pottsgrove policies and that there are more infections this school year and last school year, and yet students remain in school.

"You made the wrong call last year, just admit it," he said, adding that "the end game," in his view, is to get all children vaccinated.

Click here to read the Tweets from last night's meeting.

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