Per the letter writer, this is a letter emailed to Citrus School Superintendent, School Board members and Health Department Administrator Tito Rubio:

Dear Ms. Himmel and Citrus County School Board members,

I have been a resident of Citrus County for 17 years and cherish our community, as I know all of you do. The reputation of the school board has always been one I have admired in class and beyond.

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The COVID pandemic is a historic inflection point in all of our lives — none of us have lived through a pandemic before. We do have the CDC, the health department and other communities to draw from for the best information. On Aug. 20 in the Chronicle, Tito Rubio, the department of health administrator for Citrus County, was quoted as saying, “I’m very alarmed with these numbers” and this virus is “something we’ve never seen before.”

In today’s paper, they cite 1,096 new COVID-19 cases in Citrus in the last week, “the highest number of new cases for at least the last few months,” according to FDOH data. Our Citrus hospital system continues to be overwhelmed, nearly all of our county’s ICU hospital beds are being utilized (also cited in the Chronicle).

Tito Rubio has advised you to adhere to CDC guidelines and the pediatric administration for best practices and I strongly encourage you to take the step of a temporary mask mandate until the alarming increase in cases in our community can be mitigated.

I’ve heard reports from parents and teachers that students and teachers have largely been unmasked since the beginning of the school year and social distancing is understandably more of a challenge due to a return to in class learning.

The steps the school system has taken to this point are not sufficient. News reports today from Marion County report four additional staff members succumbing to COVID, for a total of seven staff member lives lost. Steps need to be taken now before lives may be lost or health endangered.

Your COVID-19 tracker clearly states: “We will continue to work with our partners at the Citrus County Health Department as well as state leaders throughout the school year. The school board can reinstate student and staff requirements for face coverings/masks if it becomes necessary as determined by public health conditions, or directives issued by the state or federal government.”

The time is now to take that action. Please add this to the agenda for your next meeting.

Samantha Carter