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Attorney General gives guidance to get around school COVID mandates

Coronavirus

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has sent an email blast to his Department of Justice employees to help them “safeguard their loved ones’ mental, social, and emotional wellness from government mandates.”

The Attorney General sent his team two forms families can use to object to mask mandates and future vaccination mandates at K-12 schools.

Landry’s email went out at 12:27 Monday afternoon, nearly two hours before Governor John Bel Edwards held a news conference reimplementing his indoor mask mandate.

Landry said, “Louisiana law offers robust and broad protections for students’ and parents’ religious and philosophical objections to certain state public health policies.” The AG cites Louisiana law as well as the Bible as reasons why parents can opt their kids out of following school district’s COVID guidelines.

“Please know this is not legal advice; rather, it is providing you with information that you may choose to use,” Landry said in his email. “My position remains unchanged: I trust you to make proper decisions for your health and the well-being of your family and our team. And I continue to pray that you all stay safe and keep up your great public service for Louisiana’s people.”

The Governor’s mandate requires those five years old and up to wear a mask indoors. The Governor said ultimately, residents did not do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, he maintains it is time to do what is proven to work during previous surges.

As vaccine hesitancy remains and some flat out refuse to follow the Governor’s mask mandate, Edwards said, “If you’re a citizen out there or you’re a parish president or you’re sitting on a school board or whatever, and you’re thinking, ‘Man I just don’t want to do this.’ What public health expert are you consulting? What epidemiologist are you talking to? What data are you looking at?”

Edwards went on to say, “Do you give a damn? I hope you do. I do. I’ve heard it said often that Louisiana is the most pro-life state in the nation. I want to believe that. It ought to mean something. In this context, it ought to mean something.”

Multiple health leaders from across the state have said more younger kids are becoming infected and dying as those under 12 are not able to receive the protection a vaccine provides.

“The Delta variant is every infectious disease specialist’s worse nightmare,” said Dr. Mark Kline with Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, Chief Medical Officer at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. “We are no longer giving adequate care to patients, that has also stopped. You’ve heard from these physicians that we think we’re no longer giving adequate care to anybody because these are the darkest days of the pandemic.”

One form from Landry says, “I have religious objections to injecting my child with a product that uses fetal stem cell lines in its development or testing.” The other form from Landry says, “I have philosophical objections to your mask mandate. I do not consent to forced immunization or face covering on my health child who is at minimal risk of hospitalization or death from COVID.”

Dr. Kline said it’s a myth that only children with underlying conditions get sick with COVID. Dr. Kline said the Delta variant makes up at least half of the patients being treated at Children’s Hospital New Orleans who were perfectly healthy before they were admitted.

On Monday, Edwards said, “We can’t send children back into schools unvaccinated and unmasked. Quite frankly, we need the safest possible setting for them.”

Dr. Kline added, “Though school will be opening, we will have tools to keep kids safe and out of the hospital.”

WGNO reached out to three school systems asking if the district would receive a letter like Landry has drafted, would a child be mandated to comply with the district’s policy regarding masking.

A spokesperson for St. Tammany Parish said, “I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical situation.” A spokesperson for Jefferson Parish Schools had a similar response saying, “We don’t comment on hypothetical situations.”

Read the letters below:

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