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Two school board members from different districts bring up the southern border during discussions of masks in schools

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - School boards across the area are having tough conversations about masking or unmasking for the upcoming school year.

In two separate districts, two different board members brought up issues at the southern border during the masking discussions this week.

On Tuesday, WBTV reported that Cabarrus County Board of Education Member Tim Furr placed blame on undocumented immigrants for the rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.

“Until this government takes keeps illegal aliens by the thousands from crossing the border without masks and with covid and putting them in buses and sending them all across the United States, we’re just beating our heads against a wall,” Furr said during a school board meeting.

At a Union County School Board Meeting Tuesday night, board member Gary Sides brought up the southern border when explaining why he decided not to vote to follow CDC guidance recommending students wear masks in schools.

“If our government is not going to address hundreds of thousands of people going across the country who have not been tested or vaccinated, then I have a hard time believing what they tell the rest of us to do. So, it’s a matter of trust,” Sides said.

Sides cited “news outlets” when he estimated how many undocumented immigrants were crossing the southern border and potentially spreading COVID-19 throughout the U.S.

WBTV reached out to Board Member Gary Sides Wednesday to follow up on some of the comments he made but did not hear back by deadline.

On Monday, the CDC announced it would extend an order first put in place during the Trump administration that gives the CDC Director the authority to deny immigrants access to the U.S. if they pose a threat of spreading COVID-19.

However, if a person is crossing the border unlawfully, they may not be subject to those COVID-19 screenings.

WBTV asked North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper during Wednesday’s press conference if he was aware of an increase in COVID-19 cases among undocumented immigrants.

“I have no information that that is occurring. I’m concerned about any person who is unvaccinated because unvaccinated people are causing a surge in this pandemic,” Cooper said.

He went on to say that he has long pushed the federal government to fix problems within our immigration system.

Because many hospital systems, including Novant Health and Atrium Health, do not ask patients for immigration status, it is difficult to put a number on how many COVID-19 cases can be attributed to undocumented immigrants locally.

To give some context, the Department of Homeland Security estimates about 11.4 million people or 3 percent of the U.S. population is made up of undocumented immigrants.

The Camino Community Center is a nonprofit in Charlotte that provides resources to low-income families. They serve many people from the LatinX community.

In February, the nonprofit conducted research to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the LatinX community.

Research Assistant Lennin Caro says contrary to popular belief, many people in the LatinX population the COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers followed up with people who said they did not want the COVID-19 vaccine. They found a commonality in many of their responses.

“The most popular response at 35 percent was that lack of trust, in which they expressed they didn’t have confidence in the vaccine,” Caro said.

A lack of trust is the same response Board Member Gary Sides gave when explaining why he voted against following CDC guidance for the upcoming school year.

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