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By BETH ZUMWALT
The number of cases of COVID being reported is going down, but controversies seem to be growing over Governor J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders regarding masks, testing and vaccines.
Last week, a group of approximately 15 adults protested at Pittsfield High School, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
According to Bill Bergman, the parent of the child at the center of the matter, a part-time student at Pittsfield High School, showed up at school Monday and refused to put on a mask. Pikeland allows home-schooled and other alternative school option students to take certain classes at PHS.
“She was allowed to sit in the office for the day, but not attend her classes,” Bergman, who said the family has hired an attorney, said.
The girl arrived at school Tuesday morning and was not allowed entry into the building until she put on a mask. She declined, but stayed on school property, outside the building.
Wednesday, the group of adults went with her, but, again school administrators, and this time law enforcement officers, denied her entry into the school and told her if she remained on school property she would be trespassing.
Carol Kilver, superintendent of Pikeland Schools, confirmed the incident in a mass text to parents later in the day.
“Ten students were released to their parents in response to the governor’s executive order requiring masking in Illinois schools,” the text read.” The situation was de-escalated with the assistance of the city police, the state’s attorney’s office and school administrators.”
Bergman said police were not needed, the protesters never threatened any violence, while Kilver said they were there to maintain boundaries and property lines.
Bergman said his daughter made the decision not to wear a mask based on moral beliefs which are similar to his.
“We don’t believe masks work in stopping the spread of COVID,” he said. “For us to put on a mask, it is just like lying. If we wear one, we are saying we believe it works and we don’t. I don’t judge you for wearing one, I don’t think you should judge me for not wearing one.”
He says he will also resist if vaccines become mandated, even threatening to move out of state.
“There is no proof the vaccine’s work,” Bergman said. “ I know a person who got vaccinated and still ended up in the hospital.” Bergman, who has three other children said none of his children are vaccinated against any childhood diseases. “We got exemptions for them,” he said. “They have had tetanus shots as part of medical treatment.”
Kilver said of the 10 students who left school the first day of the protests, six have returned and are wearing masks, three are in negotiations with the school and one has opted to take high school classes on-line through a virtual high school. The Illinois State Board of Education has not authorized the use of remote learning for this school year.
“The mask has become a part of the school dress code,” Kilver said. “We don’t send a student home the first time they violate the dress code, we try to work with them and try to keep them in school. I think most kids are trying to make this the best, most normal school year they can.”
She said so far all of the staff members are complying with the mandatory vaccine requirement or submitted to testing.
“It’s hard,” she said. “We know people don’t agree with it. And with different courts ruling different ways, people are confused.”
Bergman said the school board’s statement regarding the loss of funding and or accreditation, is exaggerated.
“Children are convinced they will not graduate from an accredited school and not receive credit for the school year,” Bergman said. “That is false.”
Health care workers were also mandated to receive vaccines or submit to weekly testing.
“About 50 percent of our staff is vaccinated and 50 percent are doing the testing,” Kathy Hull, CEO of Illini Community Hospital, said. “There have been no issues.”
Hull said some of the employees have been vocal about not liking it, but are complying.
“I can’t say I like it either,” she said. “We started testing Sept. 20 and have found nine of 20 employees testing positive. All were asymptomatic. They had to quarantine until they were deemed ready to return to work.”
Quincy Medical Group, along with Blessing Hospital, is being sued by a group of 11 employees, about evenly mixed between the two entities. None are from Illini, but three of the QMG litigants are from the Pittsfield facility. Kim Norton, Sarah Knight and Brandi Oitker have joined the suit being heard in Adams County. The judge issued a temporary restraining order last week, mandating the status of all employees be frozen. A another hearing is scheduled for today, Wednesday. Oct. 6. A ruling should determine if the 11 can return to work without following the mandates.
None of the three could be reached for comment.