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'Endemic is now': Boise School District parents protest mask policy

The BSD Board of Trustees will consider relaxed COVID protocols Monday. Roughly 100 parents rallied outside the district office asking to drop mask requirements.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise School District Board of Trustees will consider implementing an updated health and safety plan district-wide Monday at the boards regularly scheduled meeting.

The proposed policy update would relax several COVID-19 protocols and mitigation efforts, including making masks optional and bringing back school dances. The Boise School District Parents' Association's private group consists of 740 members and supports the proposed update.

The policy update moves BSD management of the coronavirus from a "pandemic-based model" to an "endemic-based model." While a proposed policy update is drafted on paper, the school district's public affairs administrator, Dan Hollar, said the school district isn't rushing to implement it.

"We do not anticipate the Board will look to implement the proposed updated Health & Safety Plan with masks optional with the current state of transmission in Ada County. However, with that being said, that decision will be up to the Board of Trustees," Hollar wrote in an email to KTVB.

The updated policy states the district will listen to feedback provided by national and local health professionals.

Dr. David Pate is a member of Governor Brad Little's Coronavirus Working Group; we are not yet able to start treating COVID as an endemic, according to benchmarks set by Dr. Pate.

Pate said the coronavirus will move from a "pandemic" to an "endemic" when there is a low background of disease activity.

"It means that you don’t have large numbers of students and teachers out ill, the urgent care centers are not overwhelmed, you don’t have large numbers of health care workers out ill, the hospitals are not overwhelmed, and transmission rates are low enough to allow for contact tracing," Dr. Pate said.

Idaho hospitals are overwhelmed as much of southern Idaho is currently under crisis standards of care. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is backlogged with more than 35,000 positive tests awaiting review and follow-up; however, the incomplete set of data still shows Ada County's current testing positivity rate at 19.3%. Dr. Pate wants the testing positivity rate below 5% before endemic standards take form.

The Board of Trustees is accepting written public comment before Monday's meeting.

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