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Group wants kids back in school

JOHNSTOWN — A new 700-member area public Facebook group calling itself “Quarantine the Quarantine” has been contacting area news organizations, state politicians, health and county officials, and school districts spreading its message that it wants schools entirely opened up during the ongoing COVID pandemic.

But some officials are confused as to what the group is seeking, as edicts continue to come down regarding the COVID-19 pandemic from the state.

Quarantine the Quarantine spokesperson Tamara Dunlap, an Amsterdam-area dentist, and husband Brad Dunlap recently sent out numerous messages to area media and public officials introducing herself and her group.

She said Tuesday that her group was launched about two weeks ago on Facebook and now has about 700 people who are “members.”

“My husband and I are in the community enough to talk to a lot of people,” Tamara Dunlap stated.

She said that the problem with education is most aspects of it are quarantined.

“The entire classroom, school buses and everything is quarantined,” Dunlap said.

In an email to The Leader-Herald she wrote Monday — under the subject “Fulton County parents plea to the DOH” — that she was “a member of an organization of over 600 like-minded parents and citizens living among our local area school districts.”

Dunlap wrote: “We are concerned with the department of health guidelines regarding COVID-19. Our children are being subjected to multiple unnecessary quarantines, causing detrimental physical, emotional, and academic suffering. They are isolated and removed from their education, their social networks, and physical activity such as sports. We would like to take the necessary steps to change these policies so that our children may return to school more normally and as soon as possible. We are starting to take action and sent this letter to the director of Fulton County public health today. It has been forwarded to all the Fulton County school district superintendents, several New York state politicians, and all the local news media. We would appreciate any help and support you could give to our group.”

Dunlap signs herself as a “representative” for the “Quarantine the Quarantine” group.

She issued a letter Monday to Fulton County Public Health Director Laurel Headwell, who has often said her hands are tied with COVID rules from the New York State Department of Health. Dunlap wrote that she wished the county to do things differently. She said there are “core measures that we respectfully ask your department to consider and implement immediately, as they affect the health and welfare of our children.”

∫ Proceed in approving all Fulton County school districts to open at full capacity, while empowering parents with the choice of whether or not to send their student children for in-person learning.

∫ Limit school-related quarantine measures as applied to students exclusively to those that test positive for COVID-19.

∫ Thirdly, to the extent possible, and tangential to the aforementioned, we request that mask requirements in schools be kept to a minimum, and that related polices be district-level decisions where there is latitude within statewide mandates.

Dunlap wrote: “As parents, these are not requests we take lightly. As we make these three requests, we are balancing and synthesizing a wide range of information, both from scientific viewpoints and from recent personal experience, as they relate to the overall physical and mental health and wellbeing of our children. Less draconian efforts in many other regions continue to see improved control of COVID-19. We must also balance any measures with the recognition that the long-term education of our children is imperative. Keep in mind that the quarantine mantra in NYS was originally presented as 14 days to flatten the curve, then 30 days to slow the spread, and here we are potentially going into a third school year with the learning process significantly disrupted. We feel that had the public at large known the extent to which the education of our children would be impacted, with to date no very clear benchmark for a return to normalcy nor an effective approach, we never would have accepted the measures that turned out to be incremental rather than temporary in nature as originally advertised. With COVID vaccines becoming available to any adult that wants one, now is the time to realign our focus and put our children first, whose risk of severe complications from COVID-19 is lower than that of seasonal flu.”

Dunlap said she reached out to Headwell Tuesday, and will be communicating further with her as the week progresses.

“I’m hoping we can maybe go to the next level,” Dunlap said.

Headwell told The Leader-Herald on Tuesday: “At this time, I have received the letter from the group and I have reached out to set up a meeting with Tamara. At this time a conversation is necessary to clarify the difference between NYS Department of Health and the Local Department of Health and the guidance that we are issued.”

One of the entities that Dunlap said she sent her information to was the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said he wasn’t aware of emails from the group, but said he probably will be as the week progresses. In the meantime, he said he is vaguely familiar with Dunlap and her contact with the county Health Department.

“I think Ms. Dunlap talked to their office a couple of months ago,” Stead said.

Stead said Dunlap was involved in her children and sports with the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District. Unfortunately, he said New York state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have “put public health directors in the middle” of the COVID quarantine issues.

Dunlap said her group has reached out to many state politicians, but state Assemblyman Robert Smullen in the town of Johnstown seems to exclusively be responding.

“He is the only one,” Dunlap said.

She said her group does “realize” many of the local politicians and health officials are subject to state regulations with COVID.

“We understand their hands are tied,” Dunlap said.

But she said Quarantine the Quarantine feels it must do something. She said she hopes things change by the start of the next school year in September.

“I think if we do nothing, it will go on much longer than it needs to,” she said.

Dunlap declines to answer the question of whether she or her husband have been COVID vaccinated. She also won’t say whether she thinks society will naturally open up more with more vaccinations.

“I’m kind of afraid to answer that because of my job,” the dentist said.

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