At the end of the Flagler County School Board meeting Tuesday evening, Board member Janet McDonald, referring to a discussion about the fate of the Belle Terre Swim and Racket Club, said of school officials: “The community is starting to realize that they can approach anybody at any time and that’s the way to get clear and honest information back rather than some of the things that might end up in print that’s not accurate.”
McDonald is decidedly not among the board members who disseminate “clear and honest information.” At least not about the coronavirus pandemic.
“She is the antithesis of what public health is all about at this very critical moment,” Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler County Health Department, said this evening.
Audio: The McDonald Statement
Snyder was reacting to a nearly four-minute statement McDonald made at the end of a school board workshop Tuesday afternoon when she repeated a string falsehoods about masks and the covid-19 vaccines, which she said “is not a vaccine,” and called for a lessening of restrictions in schools even as public health officials, scientists and the Centers for Disease Control are warning against prematurely reducing mask-wearing, social distancing and other safety measures.
“I would like to see us not wait for the world to face the reality that masks are making people less healthy, because of the bacterial load,” McDonald claimed, falsely. “It’s inhibiting social, emotional and communication when it’s not really helping people. I know that there’s an issue there. So I don’t know who we invite in, but I would hope that everybody does better research on actual science behind mask-wearing.” She claimed, falsely, that masks are “a piece of cloth that has never been studied for any validity for limiting viral contagion or transmission” even as she called for looking at “the real science behind this,” but without once herself citing evidence to back up her claims.
“It’s not good faith. She’s referencing a scientific debate, but there’s no science there,” said Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler and Volusia health departments and an architect with Snyder of the county’s response to the pandemic, which has kept Flagler at or near the bottom of Florida’s 67 counties for least amount of infections. Bickel, who has kept up with the pandemic science–he reads five to 10 studies a day–says none of McDonald’s claims about masks are backed up by science.
And he called “egregiously wrong” McDonald’s one of McDonald’s most startling claim: that “ “communities that have masks repeatedly have bigger transmissions and bigger incidences of the virus.”
“How absurd. How absurd, and just unhinged,” Snyder said at the end of a day he’d spent with his health department staff and volunteers inoculating 750 people at the county fairgrounds, the most in a day so far in Flagler. “Oh my gosh, all false, all alternative facts, nothing that she said is backed up by reputable science, research, virologists who are credentialed, national public health leaders and physicians, Dr. Scott Rivkees, our state surgeon general, Dr. Stephen Bickel, our medical director at the local health department. She does not have a medical degree of any sort, and to make such statements in her positions of influence is absolutely a danger, and it is incomprehensible.”
None of McDonald’s fellow school board members challenged her statements nor referred to it, either at the workshop or at the subsequent board meeting a few hours later, though they may prefer to hold their tongue rather than engage in a debate conducted on different standards of evidence.
It isn’t the first time McDonald has used her position on the board to peddle false or irresponsible claims, nor of giving her remarks a searingly insensitive timing: she chose a December board meeting, days before a memorial for the late Tom Russell, the popular Flagler Palm Coast High School principal who died of Covid-19, to downplay the disease’s death toll. On Tuesday, she made her remarks just as the nation was marking 500,000 deaths from covid–more deaths than in both world wars and the Vietnam war combined. When school opened, she proudly appeared in school photos without a mask, even as all staffers and students around her wore masks, in accordance with district directives. McDonald has often used her Twitter feed to push or recirculate disinformation, including about the pandemic.
Tuesday she claimed, as she has in the past, that an individual’s strong immune system is a better deterrent of the virus, and called for rejecting “overarching restriction” before making another outright false statement: the vaccine, she said, “is not a vaccine, and please do your research on that as well.” (Bickel has heard the claim errantly, but not in scientifically valid circles. “I’m sure there’s some point they’re trying to make. I don’t know what it is,” he said.)
“I would like to see us have some real conversations about what we do as a district and not be held to an outside entity for clearance on processes that are in place,” McDonald concluded, seemingly referring to the CDC or the local department of health.
“We have a very productive, cordial and collaborative relationship with our School Superintendent, Cathy Mittelstadt, and David Bossardet, who is our point person for the covid response,” Snyder said, going on to name a series of other administrative and line-duty staffers throughout the district and their work with the health departments during emergencies.
“We just benefit and respect this relationship, and because of that,” the health department director continued, “I am convinced that the school system and the school board will continue, despite what Janet McDonald says, to follow CDC and Department of Health guidelines relative to this pandemic and the response to it. We are in the very important vaccine phase, suffering and cases have declined, hospitalizations have declined and we are on our way out of this. We’ve been into this for a year, and to hear this kind of nonsense at this time is unproductive and it makes absolutely no sense when it comes to the appropriate response to this horrible virus. Every person in our community probably knows someone who has had the virus or has been hospitalized or has succumbed to it, so to at this point in time question the effectiveness of public health measures like social distancing and mask wearing is dangerous.”
Snyder called McDonald’s use of her school board platform to disseminate falsehoods “unconscionable.”
Snyder said the department will vaccinate 750 more people at the fairgrounds on Thursday and 200 on Friday, an independent living facility’s residents are all scheduled for shots on Saturday, and the county is set to receive 1,600 doses next week, double the usual count, as vaccination drives ramp up–with a meeting on Friday between the Food and Drug Administration and Johnson and Johnson that’s expected to clear that company’s vaccine. The one-shot vaccine is 72 percent effective, with 86 percent effectiveness in stopping serious complications from covid and near 100 percent effective in preventing death, Snyder said.
Have another says
If you voted for this lunatic, I invite you to defend her words.
Trailer Bob says
I didn’t vote for her, and for sure she is a lunatic. She does not represent all Republicans either.
There are nuts on both sides…mostly because people vote party line instead of doing a little research.
I call that ignorance.
Pat’s Opinion says
This woman, Janet McDonald, is such a detriment to the well-being of our children.
Our children and their schools deserve better than she and her whacky mask theories.
How is it possible that NOT ONE person attending the meeting stood up and reprimanded her for all her false statements?
Is there not one member of the School Board that has a conscience?
Wake up people! It’s our children’s welfare that’s at stake!
Concerned for our children says
I am so tired of Janet McDonald getting away with this and putting our children and their families at risk. Please contact Mr. Oliva in Tallahassee. I have already made one complaint (to no avail obviously) and I will be making another.
Division of Public Schools
Email: [email protected]
Mark Breidenstein says
I wonder if she refused to take the vaccine. I would bet that she has like Trump been vaccinated!
Carl Jones says
This is absurd coming from the mouth of not only a school board member but the Chair-woman. Even worst, it’s just plain political GOP nonsense.
A person doesn’t know their immune system is strong enough to battle a disease that has claimed over 500k lives until that disease attacks their immune system. Wearing a mask protects the wearer and the person you come in contact with. When a person gets sick and has to have an operation, do we not “expect” the surgeon and staff to wear masks and wash their hands out of respect for the patient’s health and their own?
Following the advice and recommendations of the CDC health experts and properly trained scientists is logical, it makes sense. Following unfounded conspiracy theories and false claims without evidence just doesn’t make sense, illogical!
I would think the citizens of Flagler County expects to have logical, fact-based members representing the children of this community, our children.
Is her opinion supported by the GOP? Is it also white woman nonsense? Get a grip it has nothing to do with the GOP. Ask Dr Fauci what he thinks. If he gives you a straight truthful answer let me know.
Orange Koolaid to the Right. We just watched a Year of this GOP nonsense and its obviously still going on unless Alternate Realities Govern your thought processes which seems to be your case. Dr. Faucis comments mutate with a Virus nimrod. Its dynamic not static genius.
Bill C says
hmmm remember hydroxychloroquine, injecting bleach, the covid “hoax”? GOP all the way.
John Stove says
FYI….her talking points match 100% to the GOP train of thought (you know…off the rails).
Carl Jones says
Come on man, wake up, this is the same BS that the GOP is spouting on a national level. They were and still are the ones pushing mask don’t work crap and holding “SuperSpreader” events. It’s GOP political garage and it’s “white woman privilege”, to think she can say something and people are supposed to believe it, without evidence. The grip needs to be gotten by people like you and the minority party. Dr Fauci is more reputable than McDonald is, in any sane persons eyes.
Sad Times says
Well, voters….you who voted for McDonald…this is what you got! A person who does not care about the safety of our citizens….a person who doesn’t care how many of us could fall sick of COVID…and die.
YOU WHO VOTED FOR HER…obviously do not care how many of your friends, neighbors, and co-workers have more of a chance of an early death.
I just wish I could understand your reasonings….for sponsoring and backing someone who doesn’t give a damn about our children.
I truly would like an answer to my question, Republicans….why do you not care about exposing our citizenry to possibility of an early death?
Concerned Citizen says
What a pair the McDonalds are. And an embarrassment to this county.
I don’t trust anything said by someone who outright lied on official documents got caught then bargained her way out. While her just as dishonest sue happy husband took the rap. Lying is lying. You just don’t sort of lie.
Remember this behavior and that of others that have failed to do their elected duty next time around. Flagler County deserves better.
THE Issue is that this THING sits on the School Board. That IT is in charge of any Childs well being Health or Educational is profoundly wrong at many levels. Nevermind Teachers Administration impact to Families. etc… The Voters of FPC cant find a better more qualified Educator than this Conspiracy spreading disinformational Right Wing huckster reprobate. To continue to spew false claims which are blatant lies to get a pat on the head by others in her dwindling Political camp. Shes not Qualified nor should she comment on what the process procedure will be. IT is clearly using her Position as a platform to further the falsehood nonsense for what gains? To ensure Her reputation as a buffoon who aspires to continue the lunacy of disproven claims. Clearly FPC has work to do in future Elections to rid itself of the likes of this alternate Reality vein of nonsense imbedded in its Boards Commissions etc. What is most disturbing is that there are no ramifications, actions, outrage by fellow Members, Adm., Families, Community to muzzle the flow of lies. At best IT should be Censured or thrown off the Board immediately IMO. The REAL Science she speaks of would be Karma giving Her a dose of C19 up close and personal. SMH
Deborah Coffey says
Why do Republicans continue to put these crazy, dishonest people in public office? McDonald is a clear and present danger to every person in our county.
Sad Times says
Republicans continue to elect these uncaring candidates….because the Republicans DO NOT CARE if people die. Their leader has said so. They have said so.
Plain and simple, unfortunately.
The ONLY thing that the Republicans care about are….power and money. That’s it.
If I am wrong, I’d like some TRUE and ACCURATE data…not lies.
Dr. Betty Despenza-Green says
Janet M is a disgrace to all Humans. To sit on the Board of Education requires a Higher standard of Conduct. What and Who is she?
Fellow Board Members are equally guilty for tolerating such lies and nonsense. Needless to say, I expected much more from sitting members like Cheryl, Andy, etc.
Stop her from hurting our
Andy Dance now serves on the county commission.
Percy's mother says
Excuse me, I’m a Republican and I CARE if people die.
1. I am an environmentalist, and I care what happens to the environment. I actually have a Master’s degree in Environmental Science.
2. I recycle diligently, and have always done so.
3. I am highly educated.
4. I am extremely well-travelled.
5. I read literature extensively.
6. I educate myself on a daily basis.
7. I am measured in all responses.
8. I am thoughtful in all responses.
9. I am kind, considerate, patient and compassionate with all.
10. I am an animal lover.
11. I am healthy and in-shape in mind, body and spirit.
I could continue, but I’ve painted a picture of a typical “Republican”.
So please, do not generalize about “Republicans”.
And you apparently voted for trump who doesn’t adhere to any of your above statements. Can you explain that?
We have to generalize you and your party. Your party voted him into office, your party allowed him to go unchecked, your party had the opportunity (TWICE) to hold him accountable and DID’NT.
All the things you
claim you are, he’s proven he ain’t! Your party continues to follow him, raise “Idolatry” symbols of him and worships it. If there is a difference between Republican and Trump Cultist, I ain’t seen it. I see white nationalist(GOP) being lead astray by a twice-impeached loser that is still planning on overthrowing the government because if he gets the nomination we’ll just outvote you again, and again for as long as it takes before you come to your senses and see that he still thinks republicans are the dumbest voters ever…his words, not mine!
I think that the truth lay some where in the middle. Can someone show me a study on how effective a bandana is as a face mask?
The truth is not “somewhere in the middle.” Bandanas are certainly less effective especially if worn improperly, as are all face masks if worn improperly, but the recommendation is to wear actual face masks, not bandannas, so to pose the question from a relativistic perspective in order to claim that the truth between masking and not masking “is somewhere in the middle” is misleading. See these items from Johns Hopkins, Nature, and the University of California.
More specifically from Johns Hopkins on bandanas and gaiters: “None of these three types of face coverings works as well as a proper face mask. A good mask has a double layer of washable, breathable fabric that helps keep the wearer from spreading potentially infected droplets into the air. A bandanna tied around the face does not work as well as a mask because it is open at the bottom. A gaiter (a tube of thin, stretchy knit fabric that can be worn around the neck and pulled up to cover the nose and mouth) is usually too thin to provide adequate protection. Likewise, masks with exhalation valves can allow your droplets to escape into the air. Johns Hopkins Medicine does not permit bandanas, gaiters, or masks with exhalation valves to be worn by patients, staff members or visitors at our locations. We do not recommend clear shield-like face masks, which are different than face shields but still have gaps around the face and therefore do not provide the same protection as wearing a mask.”
Bill Green says
Not one responsible health source has indictated that bandanas are totally effective but there are studies that validate N-95 (and similar) masks. To believe otherwise – as has Janet McDonald – is hyperbole, hogwash and outright deception.
John Stove says
OH MY GOD….
How in the world is this clueless, uninformed and factually incorrect person be allowed to participate on a board and spew her Bulls**t? If you spend 5 minutes researching the issues she brings up about masks, vaccines etc you will find numerous documents from the Mayo Clinic, CDC, WHO, American Medical Association, New England Journal of Science, Cleveland Clinic, Workd Health Organization etc etc on the need for masks and the use of the vaccine.
Where do you find her facts? Fox news, Breitbart, Newsmax……
She is another clueless , anti-science, “drink bleach while we insert a light up your a** ” believer and I am constantly amazed that in 2021 with all the information in the world readily available, this is her point of view?
Janet….you need to go and put on your tin foil hat and let the grown ups handle this.
McDonald is a “trump type” and will continue with lies, misinformation and bullying just as long as the rest of the board allows and enables her too. Cowardice prevails and bullies get their way, just like in politics.
Here it is. She is a Trump type. Did Trump ever say not to wear a mask? No. Did Trump ever say masks don’t work? No. Just ask Dr Fauci, maybe you can get a straight answer from him. Did Trump ever say the vaccine wasn’t a vaccine? No. Show me a Biden or Hillary type that doesn’t lie.
Just the facts man, just the facts.
Yes Dr. Fauci did say on March 8, during the early stage of C-19
“When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.” The problem with being like Janet McDonald is that they do not evolve, knowledge and science do and as Dr. Fauci studied and learned more about C-19 he admitted that he was wrong and changed his recommendation and follow the scientist world not the conspiracy alternative world.
BTW Biden and Hillary never made a false statement about masks, the subject of this editorial, stay with the subject. I would be like bringing up the comical sharpiegate that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.
Oct. 2, 2020
President Trump — who insisted when the coronavirus first emerged that it would not be a threat in the United States — spent months playing down the effectiveness of masks, initially refused to be photographed with one on and this week mocked former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for wearing one.
Mr. Trump claimed that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading U.S. official on infectious diseases, had initially said that “masks are not good — then he changed his mind.” (Dr. Fauci rejected the claim, saying on Thursday that he had long been “begging people to wear masks.”)
“There are a lot of people think that masks are not good,” Trump said at a town hall on Sept. 15. Adding at a press conference the next day, “Masks have problems, too.”
In a telephone interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on July 9, Trump again brought up the reversal by the scientific community on masks, and framed it as an ongoing debate (even though by then there was consensus from his health advisers advocating public mask-wearing).
“They have been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks,” Trump said. “Maybe they are wrong, maybe not. But a lot of them said, don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. And now they are saying, wear a mask. So, a lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes.”
Trump, July 14: Well, I’d say listen to that instruction, listen to your governors. But I have to say the same people that say wear a mask are people that said, a long time ago, don’t wear a mask, masks are bad. They said they’re not good. So, you know, like Dr. Fauci, surgeon general, a lot of people — a lot of people — the surgeon general said that also.
The Voice Of Reason says
Your contributions on a regular basis do little to nothing to elevate the dialog or intelligence of the discussion that occur here. I suspect you voted for Janet and are very proud of it. If you’re old enough to vote.
Deny accuse deflect accuse. What a game to play with lives. Maybe Trump didnt lie on his Tax returns that the DA has.LOL 45 is guilty of all the above so you may believe it but its the reason Hes gone with many others to follow. Good Luck mask up Build back Better Just Keep Winning
John Stove says
I know you are mad as hell that Trump lost and feel awkward with your MAGA gear investment but try to listen to science and do some research and we will let you sit at the grownups table soon. To this day and minute GOP mock wearing masks (can you say Rand Paul? and he is a senator)
John McDonnell says
Trump said on national television that “wearing masks is not mandatory and I’m not going to wear one.” This, in itself, is a statement that suggests that masks are unnecessary and that he doesn’t support the wearing of masks.
Don’t mask her – gag her.
art schwartz says
It is difficult to accept the fact that this cretin was elected by us – shame on us.
Merrill Shapiro says
I am afraid to ask what our School Board Chair thinks about Evolution, the pre-Civil War slave trade, the KKK, etc. She’s the wrong person for Flagler County.
Steve Robinson says
Really makes you wonder whether the two universities that are planning satellite campuses in PC did any research beyond the cost of land before deciding on a county whose school board is run by a flat-Earther who is n ever challenged by her elected colleagues. Many of the faculty and staff for the new campuses will presumably bring children who will attend the local schools. What were they thinking??
You mean to tell me they have fired her from the Education Board yet? In the meantime how about giving her a mental evaluation.
McDonald is hawking false conspiracy theories at the expense of the heath and safety of the public. If her advice is heeded, human beings will be exposed to a deadly virus and schools may need to be shut down again totally as a result.
She is dangerous and needs to be removed from her position. Let her disseminate her “views” on Q-Anon internet boards to her heart’s content. But they have no place on the Flagler County School Board.
How can we hope to educate our children properly with such an ignorant person in charge of making policy for our schools?
American children are barred from learning in school, small businesses are crumbling, and families are hurting
But, it’s okay. Americans can rest easy knowing that Aunt Jemima, The Land O’ Lakes Indian and Mr. Potato Head can no longer hurt us.
You people are nuts.
Children are not “barred” from learning in school. More “alternate facts” from one nut to another.
School were shuttered, small businesses crumbled, families ended up hurting and PEOPLE DIED, not only because of the Pandemic itself but because of the selfishness, lack of leadership and lack of intelligence and concern of the previous administration. That is all now being addressed. It finally has a chance to be corrected because more Americans are choosing competence over prejudice–Perhaps not the “Henrys” and Janet McDonalds of the world but despite them. Those who don’t like it can lump it.
Not Hoodwinked says
Out of curiosity when you put on a mask and take it off. You’re effectively giving the virus a means of transmission to your hands…. not to mention the continuous adjusting throughout the day with your hands…or repeatedly taking it on and off throughout the day…
Sure I can wear one into a restaurant, but as soon as I’m seated and have a drink. For the duration of the meal I’m maskless.
You can sanitize things all you want, but if you read the instructions, the solution has to sit undisturbed for over 5 minutes to kill everything… Do you think the cart girl at Publix or Walmart waits the entire 5 mins before wiping it off…..no….
What good is really any of this doing?
Let’s get with the science on this. The way most things have been beaten in the past is through herd immunity. Also, a pandemic requires 7% fatality by definition not 0.06%
“The obedient always think about themselves as virtuous, rather than cowardly.
If authority implies submission, liberation implies equality. Authority exists when one man obeys another, and liberty exists when one man do not obey other men.
Thus, to say that authority exists is to say that class and cast exist, that submission and inequality exist. To say that the liberty exists is to say that classlessness exists, to say that brotherhood and equality exist.
Authority, by dividing men into classes, creates dichotomy, disruption, hostility, fear, disunion. Liberty, by placing men to equal footing, creates association, amalgamation, union, security.”
-Robert Anton Wilson
@This problem is beyond obvious
Q is nothing new
Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against insanity. That is where the true evil lies.
— Mark Twain
Oh great! Now, I definitely don’t want my child going back to brick & mortar. I’ve been proud of the public school system in Flagler County. Now, I’m appalled to hear the ignorant stance our school board is projecting, apparently condoning McDonald’s opinion. I previously felt certain I wanted to raise my grandchild here. For shame!
Janet McDonald: Palm Coast’s own Marjorie Taylor Greene. And she appeals to the same type of individual Taylor Greene does.
Please remove her from her postilion. She is obviously incompetent, ignorant and delusional. She is not qualified to even give an opinion on anything health related.