The council established a two-week term in schools that expired on Friday, October 22, as a COVID-19 mitigation measure because young children were not eligible for the vaccine.
Halfway through the term last week, the council held a special meeting to listen to residents.
At that meeting, Dr Jeff Horak, who worked at the city hospital for 16 years, spoke out in favor of “parental freedom” to choose whether their children wear masks at school.
â€œThis tenure at all levels is a tough place to go,â€ said Horak, still wearing his hospital gowns during his five-minute speech.
â€œWho has God put in charge of their children? Their parents, â€he said. â€œGod gave each of these children to their parents. Their parents speak for them, and they may be wrong, stupid, or perfect in their decision-making, but it is still their responsibility.
“It’s their responsibility, not yours.”
The crowd, broadly in favor of removing the mask’s mandate, applauded Horak’s words.
However, responding to questions later in the week after the meeting, Lake Region Health CEO Kent Mattson made it clear that Dr Naomi Schmid was the only person authorized to speak on their behalf at the meeting. Her position in favor of children wearing masks was echoed by surgeon general Dr Julianne Gutzmer and cardiologist Dr JoEllen Kohlman-Petrick, who each spoke at the meeting.
Schmid told the board of directors that the masks have been proven to help fight COVID-19.
She objected to the suggestion of some at the meeting that the children were not at risk from the coronavirus.
She said pediatric hospitalizations and intensive care admissions had “continued to increase since July” in Minnesota.
â€œLocally, we have had children sick enough to have to be transferred to other hospitals,â€ Schmid said.
The virus, she said, has caused deaths “here in our community, and it continues to circulate.”
With conflicting arguments to the school board, Mattson said in a statement that the lake area was reviewing the situation. In fact, he said, they were reviewing Horak’s comments in full.
At one point, some residents believed Horak had delivered a racial slur in reference to his 20 years working in Detroit, Michigan.
â€œFix your ulcerâ€¦ I just put the two sides together,â€ he said. “Anyone can do it. The monkeys can do it. The monkeys do it in Detroit.”
Horak said he didn’t even know the brief comment could be viewed as derogatory or racist. He said he was talking “literally about monkeys”.
School board president Melanie Cole said she did not hear the words during the meeting, but several people complained to her about the “unpleasant comment” after the meeting.
Although Horak said he and the Lake District had a clause in their contract that they couldn’t explain why he was no longer working there, Fergus Falls resident Amanda Davison said she and other members of the community thought it was his point of view. about the masking that was expressed at the meeting.
Davison, a counselor, said it was “of great concern” that the doctor could lose his job because he defended his personal beliefs and those of other relatives who were present at the meeting and against his colleagues.
â€œThe community is losing a highly respected phenomenal surgeon,â€ she said.
In a statement released Thursday by Mattson, he said Horak worked for the Lake Region Medical Group, which provided the notice to the Lake Regional Heathcare System.
â€œWe sincerely appreciate Dr. Horak’s 16 years of service to our patients and organizations, and we wish him the best as he transitions his practice from here,â€ said Mattson.
He said the hospital always has a “complement of talented and dedicated general surgeons who will ensure that we have surgical coverage in place to provide uninterrupted services to all patient needs.”