A New Jersey school nurse who refused to endorse universal mask-wearing as a viable way to protect students from the Chinese coronavirus — and who went to work without one — has been suspended by the Stafford Township School District.
Erin Pein came under fire after participating in a video for Republican gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh in which she spoke out against the practice of forcing students to wear masks.
“I have just seen horrible things with these masks for the kids. In every school, I have not seen a single child wearing them correctly or staff and I’ve seen so much–so much pain with them and suffering with, just on a multi-faceted level,” she said, giving some examples of the psychological and physical effects universal mask-wearing has had on children.
“We see the kids who are also having anxiety and having, you know, depression in kindergarten in first, second grade,” she said, explaining that some kids come in crying. She offered one specific example of a first grader coming to her and saying “she felt like something really bad was gonna happen and that the mask made her feel scared and when she thinks about it, her stomach starts to hurt and she throws up.”
“So she was sent to me because she threw up in class, and she told me, ‘I’m not sick,’ she said. ‘I’m just really nervous.’ So, I mean, to hear that from a first grader is just–it’s just heartbreaking,” Pein said.
But what really appeared to get her in trouble, it seems, was her fundamental doubt of the efficacy of masks and her decision to go to work without one.
“The masks, unfortunately, don’t prevent them from getting COVID because viruses are so small that you–it can’t be stopped with a mask, with a cloth mask or surgical mask.” She went on to say, “Even an N95 mask is not effective in catching COVID, so making these kids wear them for six or seven hours a day is awful” and noted that the masks are not being worn or used correctly and increasing the risk of more harmful bacteria.
“It’s really dangerous to these kids to wear them physically,” she said, “besides all the emotional and developmental and emotional damage that’s being done, so that’s where I took a stand.”
She ultimately detailed her concerns to her supervisor, who responded that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) mandated the masks. Pein told the supervisor that, as a nurse, she did not feel comfortable enforcing the mandate and asked if she could follow up with the superintendent to discuss.
Ultimately, Pein messaged the superintendent, principal, and supervisor. She said, “[I] let them know I was no longer going to be wearing a mask at work.” Indeed, she did. Consequently, she was suspended and “escorted out of the building.”
The nurse added that her main goal is to get people to “wake up and to realize that this mandate isn’t safe” for kids or adults, referring to forced mask-wearing as a form of child abuse:
Stephanie Silvera, described as an “expert on epidemiology and professor of public health at Montclair State University,” accused Pein of spreading “misinformation.”
“I’m honestly not sure why this type of misinformation is still circulating more than a year later,” Silvera said.
“I have yet to see a study that substantiates the claim that mask-wearing increases risk to the wearer of bacterial infections,” she continued. “As for the claim that this is ‘child abuse,’ that seems to be inflammatory rhetoric and opinion rather than a scientifically supported position.”
New Jersey opened its doors for in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year, but it comes with precautions, including social distancing and mask-wearing.
“Strict adherence to mask-wearing should be enforced at all times across all grades and risk levels,” the state website reads, citing the Department of Health, which recommends six feet of physical distancing when masks “cannot be worn,” such as when eating.
According to NJ.com, New Jersey schools have documented 1,070 coronavirus cases this school year.