Doctor offers COVID-19 clarifications to board

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Dr. M. Cameron Rumsey, who has served on the Pawhuska School District’s COVID-19 task force and provided the school district with professional advice about preventing the spread of the viral illness, last week wrote a letter to the Board of Education to clarify certain details.

Rumsey’s letter does not single out any specific board members or criticize any board decision or potential decision, but it does comment on subjects that arose in discussion among board members during their Monday, April 12, meeting.

At one point during discussion among board members April 12, Tom Boone remarked, “COVID has been here for over seven years already.” He started to add to that with a reference to cattle, when Addie Roanhorse interjected, “Can you please? I’d rather have accurate information coming out instead of … that’s not accurate.”

“It is accurate because cattle have had a vaccine for it for over seven years,” Boone said.

As the discussion continued, board member Justin Turney made remarks that raised doubts about the value of face masks for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Even the CDC says it may prevent. They are not even 100 percent to say it does prevent,” Turney said. He added that he didn’t think, based on a year of scientific study of the COVID-19 pandemic, that masks were that effective.

The full text of Dr. Rumsey’s letter is as follows:

“To Pawhuska School Board,

“I have had the chance to review this last school board discussion regarding COVID-19 precautions. As a member of the COVID-19 task force and medical director of the Osage County Health Department, I feel obligated to provide my input on best medical practice. COVID-19 is one of many different types of coronavirus. Some of these viruses only cause mild symptoms and have been circulating for several decades. COVID 19 is a new virus with different qualities compared to the other types of coronaviruses. It has proven to be extremely deadly for many people. Vaccines have shown to be effective, and we hope to continue to see positive results as we encounter more viral strains.

“It was mentioned that masks were not effective in reducing transmission, mainly because of viral particle size. This shows an oversimplified understanding of Virology and Infectious Disease. Viruses are not transmitted as isolated particles. Water droplets serve as vehicles for transmission. Masks when worn properly then capture these viral droplets. There are important differences when comparing data performed in a lab versus clinical data in the field. Healthcare professionals are trained to interpret this data and help patients make the most informed decisions regarding their health. It is important for our community to understand COVID-19 risks and ways to reduce the spread of virus. This is not possible without the guidance of healthcare professionals who understand and know how to apply the clinical data.

“It is definitely appropriate to consider precaution guideline changes when the viral atmosphere is favorable. These are tough decisions our community leaders have to make every day. However, these discussions must revolve around factual and relevant medical literature. Failure to consult with medical professionals when making these tough recommendations will negatively affect our healthcare systems and community members. Thank you for your consideration moving forward.”

At the suggestion of Superintendent David Cash, Turney read Rumsey’s letter aloud during the Board of Education’s Friday, April 16, meeting, in which it voted to relax the requirement that protective masks be worn in district classrooms by teachers and students.

Turney voiced thanks to Rumsey for the letter and said he has a desire to sit down with Rumsey and talk with him. Turney indicated he has numerous questions he would like to ask the doctor.