FULTON COUNTY – The Fulton County-based “Quarantine the Quarantine” Facebook group is stepping up its efforts to pressure state and local officials to reduce COVID-19 safety rules for school districts, even as the vaccination rate for the rural county remains near the bottom of counties in New York state.
Tamara Dunlap, the leader and founder of the group, said she is encouraging all of its members to call and email as many officials as possible.
“We are calling everyone,” she said. “When they change the rules for the daycares, it sounded like a calling campaign worked. So, we tried to jump on that and started sharing numbers and email addresses and fax numbers in any way that we could find to communicate with some of these public officials to just be in their ear.”
Dunlap said she doesn’t think the communication blitz has done much good, claiming calls go unanswered, emails often “bounce back” and local school officials appear to have little influence over the state’s rules, but she says it is still worth it to pressure them anyway.
“Everyone has a reason why they can’t voice their opinion more loudly, there’s a consequence for everyone,” she said. “I mean, I know there’s consequences for me as well. So, we all have to be careful for our own personal reasons. But what we are trying to do now is just continue to be annoying, continue to be there and say that we’re not giving up, and we’re actually getting bigger, and we’re getting more angry, and we’re getting stronger and we are joining other groups that are across the state that are doing the same thing.”
Some of the members of the Facebook group have called for more aggressive action regarding the mask mandate.
“Every parent should be sending their child to school without a mask starting tomorrow if they haven’t already done so today,” reads a post from a Facebook profile identified as Patrick Bresonis. “No mask in their pockets, purses, backpacks, whatever. Make these coward administrators and superintendents, these so-called “educators” work extra hard dealing with every single child, pre-K through 12th grade. Of course, if your child really wants to wear their mask, then certainly feel free.”
Others in the group have called out school administrators in Fulton County by name, some advocating parents keep their children at home until the mask mandates are lifted in order to starve the district’s of school aid.
Meanwhile, Fulton County continues to rank dead last among counties in the rural Mohawk Valley for percentage of residents with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, at 41%, 21,957 people. That ranks fifth from the bottom among New York state’s 62 counties with only these counties ranked lower: Cattaraugus (40.9%, 31,409 people), Lewis (40.4%, 10,681 people), Tioga (40.1%, 19,466 people) and Allegany (35.8%, 16,622 people).
Dunlap on Monday said she doesn’t necessarily endorse parents keeping their children home from school, but she thinks they are courageous for taking that action. She is the parent of three students attending the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, and founded the Facebook group in March with her husband, Brad, in response to her children having been placed in quarantine multiple times during the 2020-21 school year.
She said the group was initially narrowly focused on the issue of seeking an elimination of quarantines based on “presumed positive cases” of students exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms, limiting quarantines instead to the minimum U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for confirmed COVID-19 positive cases and people who were within six feet of the positive case for at least 20 minutes.
Dunlap has in the past stated the group was not focused on masks or being anti-vaccination, but the private Facebook group has effectively acted as an internet safe space for anti-mask and anti-vaccination rhetoric, removing members who have sought to argue in favor of masks, but allowing other group members to post memes likening mask mandates to Nazism, referencing the girl in the red coat from the holocaust movie “Schindler’s list.” The group also frequently includes comments from people who object to incentives being offered for people to get vaccinated.
Dunlap, a dentist, has said she is a proponent of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a controversial alternative approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic published by three Ivy-league-trained medical professionals in October 2020, which advocated for allowing COVID-19 to spread through the general public while isolating the most vulnerable people as a means of achieving herd immunity faster than could be achieved by vaccination.
The declaration does admit vaccination could also be a means of achieving herd immunity. The declaration has not been adopted by any government, and has been criticized by the American Public Health Association as being likely to result in more fatal cases of COVID-19.
Dunlap, in the “QTQ Mission Statement,” calls for a “focused protection” approach to quarantines, similar to the Great Barrington Declaration. Although the QTQ Mission Statement does not reference masks or vaccines, she said she now believes all of those issues are linked together.
“I think that they are not separate issues anymore,” she said. “I don’t think that any of it is a separate issue. I think that we are going to be told that in order to stop wearing masks and to stop quarantining, we absolutely will all be able to do that, if we all get our kids vaccinated.”
Tamara and Brad Dunlap, a chiropractor, have both refused to say whether they have or will be vaccinated, but on Monday Tamara clarified her view on vaccination: “I hate to say much on vaccinations because of my profession. I don’t feel that it’s fair for me to voice much of an opinion on it one way or another … I am not anti-vaccination in any way, but I have reservations with having my children vaccinated with something new. Because it does seem that they’re at low risk for any major complications, if they actually contract the virus. So, I am not opposed to them getting the vaccine at some point, but I am uncomfortable with them getting the vaccine at this point now.”