STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — A traveling school nurse was suspended from the district after she decided to stop wearing a face mask to work, in defiance of a mask mandate she called “child abuse.”
Erin Pein, 35, reported to work for two days without wearing a face mask before she was suspended, she described in a Facebook video posted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh.
In the video, Pein said she hadn’t “seen a single child wearing (masks) correctly — or staff” and alleges that “because the (COVID-19) viruses are so small, they can’t be stopped with a cloth mask or a surgical mask, even an N-95 mask.”
Her remarks stand in contrast to findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and researchers across the globe, all of whom report that face masks are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
A study released by the CDC in February showed that, when two people wear face masks, exposure to potentially infectious aerosols decreased by about 95%.
Other studies highlighted by the CDC have shown that face masks can block 50% to 70% of “fine droplets and particles and limit the forward spread of those that are not captured.”
Pein said she stopped wearing the face mask as a form of protest against what she considers “child abuse”: “I think that the mask mandate in schools is 100% child abuse. I see the damage first-hand of what’s being done to our kids, and I can’t just sit and be complicit anymore,” she said.
Superintendent George Chidiac did not immediately return a request seeking comment on Pein’s suspension or remarks.
Pein said wearing a face mask has been traumatic for students, including one student who vomited multiple times because the face mask made her nervous.
“My goal here for this whole thing, telling everybody about the situation, is really to get people to wake up and realize that this mandate isn’t safe,” she said. “It’s not good for kids. It’s not good for adults. It’s not good or anybody, we shouldn’t be following it.”
In the video, Pein cites CDC statistics that show children have a 99.997% survival rate if they test positive for COVID-19.
She did not disclose that children can still spread the virus to others, including adults who are immunocompromised and for whom the virus is much more deadly.
The CDC considers masks a “key prevention strategy” to prevent COVID-19 transmission within schools, and recommends using tightly woven masks specifically made for children.
On Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said masked, fully vaccinated people could safely partake in indoor activities, such as worship services, indoor dining or visiting a movie theater. Masks are no longer necessary when outdoors or indoors in small groups of fully vaccinated people, the CDC has said.
The CDC, however, still advises caution in indoor public spaces where “the vaccination status of other people or whether they are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 is likely unknown.”
Under such circumstances, “fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask that fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands often, and follow any applicable workplace or school guidance.”
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there have been more than 872,000 cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey since the virus began to spread in March 2020.
Nearly 23,000 people have died from the virus in New Jersey. The Ocean County Health Department reports nearly 2,500 cases of COVID-19 in Stafford, including 59 deaths.