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McCarrick's Bid to End Athlete COVID Testing Fails
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            After listening to Upper Perkiomen's superintendent address community concerns related to the district's rapid antigen COVID-19 testing of spring athletes, one member announced his regret on a previous vote. Keith McCarrick said he should have announced his opposition to the idea of tying their participation to being tested.

            McCarrick's concerns triggered a lengthy debate and led to a motion to rescind the district's Spring Athletics Health & Safety Plan during last week's board workshop meeting. However, the board rejected the action item.

            Raeann Hofkin and McCarrick cast the only votes in favor of the motion. President Melanie Cunningham, Vice President Judith Maginnis, Kerry Drake, Dana Hipszer and Stephen Cunningham voted against the motion. Five votes were necessary for the motion to succeed. Mike Elliot and Peg Pennepacker did not participate in the March 25 meeting, hosted on Zoom.

            McCarrick requested that his action item be added to the meeting agenda. Superintendent Allyn Roche broached the subject to clarify a few topics related to the health and safety plan in terms of mask wearing and testing. "Mask wearing has become a hot topic this week," Roche said.

            The plan approved March 11 by the board requires all coaches and athletes to wear face coverings at all times in accordance with a Nov. 18, 2020 order issued by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, according to the superintendent.

            He also described the district's participation in the Project Ace-It Program, through a collaboration with the Montgomery County Health Department and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as a public health initiative, not a study. According to Roche's presentation, data collected through the use of BinaxNow/CUE tests provides no identifiable data for participants.

            The tests are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID from athletes to regular students, according to Andrea Farina, the district's assistant superintendent and pandemic coordinator.

            The tests are allowed because participation in sports are optional, according to Solicitor Kyle Somers.

            Later, McCarrick made a motion to eliminate the requirement to test athletes. He acknowledged the existence of the novel coronavirus, that it is contagious, "and can have devastating effects."  However, he argued that kids and parents are living in constant fear of catching or being identified as having the virus, even if asymptomatic, or receiving a test that comes back as a false positive. McCarrick stated that students are suffering from depression due to a lack of social interaction.

            He said he voted to approve fall and winter sports in order to allow parents and students the opportunity to take the risk of competing. McCarrick said he voted the same way on spring sports. But in the last two weeks, after talking to constituents, "I realized I was wrong."

            At the direction of the solicitor, McCarrick amended his motion to rescind the entire health and safety plan with the intent of passing it a second time without the testing.

            Hofkin seconded the motion. She stated that she will continue to vote for the rights of students and parents to make the decisions about being tested on not. Hofkin also claimed, without evidence or further explanation, that the chemical on the Q-tips utilized in the COVID-19 test causes cancer.

            Maginnis, a school nurse and pandemic coordinator at another school, pushed back on Hofkin's assertion. Maginnis described the antigen tests as the best way to keep the district's athletes healthy. She also informed the board that 80,000 people tested positive for the virus and 1,500 died from it on Wednesday, March 24.  "We're not out of this," Maginnis said.

            A majority of commenting residents agreed with McCarrick and Hofkin. Jeff Wilson, a Pennsburg resident, described the tests as completely bogus and unethical. Jennifer Hartzel, of East Greenville, said it was senseless to require mandatory testing.

            Hope Manion, a Hereford resident, thanked the board for its vigilance. She expressed shock at the misinformation she heard during the meeting. 

            "This is not the flu," said Manion, who described her profession as a health care actuary. "The swabs do not cause cancer. Take a minute to trust the experts."






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