JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A well-known Jacksonville infectious disease expert is sharing his frustrations after learning a nurse is being investigated for allegedly writing mask opt-out notes at a public park.
The claim was brought to the News4Jax I-TEAM’s attention after complaints from health care professionals. The I-TEAM went undercover Thursday at a park in Jacksonville Beach after getting multiple tips that a licensed nurse was offering to sign forms to get children and employees out of mask mandates or vaccine requirements.
The I-TEAM is investigating claims related to Facebook posts, where a woman was advertising she’d sign mask opt-out forms. News4Jax has chosen not to identify her, for the time being, because it’s unclear if she has committed a crime.
Dr. Mohammed Reza, who is not associated with the nurse, says the claims are troubling. He said only physicians have been authorized to sign off on waivers for masks and vaccines, including children and their schools.
“If you need a mask waiver, talk to your pediatrician, those parents that are concerned,” Reza said. “Talk to the family practice physicians. Those are the people who should be deciding. People who are intimately aware of children’s medical condition and what they suffer from.”
Reza is worried this could lead to an even bigger strain on hospitals that are already dealing with the stress of treating an alarming number of children who are too young to get the vaccine.
“We know from simple math that 10% or more of those children that were infected last week are going to have long COVID,” Reza said.
Long COVID is long-term medical conditions such as a brain or heart condition caused by a COVID infection. Reza says it’s complicated to many doctors who are still trying to figure out why and how it happens after a some children get infected.
Reza said if we don’t do more to protect the children who are vulnerable, we’re going to start hearing about more pediatric COVID deaths that could have been prevented.
On Thursday, Wolfson Children’s Hospital announced that seven children under their care have died from COVID since the beginning of the pandemic -- two occurred this week.
Reza says the science doesn’t lie and that face coverings are still key to preventing the spread.
“If you wore a mask, infection rate dropped by 75% when both people wore masks. So that’s what we want to have, especially in indoor, closed areas such as classrooms,” Reza said.
Reza said a good example is last year when there was no vaccine for COVID during flu season. Most of the US population, including children, were wearing masks and it not only preventing large numbers of pediatric COVID deaths, but also nationwide pediatric deaths from influenza.
“We lost one child the entire year to the flu infection. On an average year, we lose 100 to 200 children the flu. Why? Because we did all the things we were supposed to do to protect ourselves from COVID,” Reza said.
Branching off on what Reza said, the CDC stated in its report during the 2020-2021 flu season that “For pediatric deaths, CDC received one report of a pediatric flu death in a child during the 2020–2021 flu season. Since flu deaths in children became nationally notifiable in 2004, reported flu deaths in children had previously ranged from a low of 37 (during 2011-2012) to a high of 199 (during 2019-2020).”
Reza says politics are hijacking a health crisis that he says has been made worse by misinformation.
“Don’t listen to politicians for medical advice. That’s what I have to tell people. That’s the reality,” he said. “I don’t tell politicians how to do their job.”