How CBSD's Covid policy was driven by far-right groups

There's a reason our health and safety plan didn't prioritize health or safety

There’s a lot to talk about in CBSD, but first, let’s tackle the most urgent and obvious problem: Covid.

One person, Dr. David Damsker, the director of the Bucks County Department of Health (BCDOH), has been driving the Covid policies that many area school districts have been following. The problem is, Damsker doesn’t seem to think Covid is much of a problem.

Could that be because his wife is affiliated with several anti-masking groups? And what’s the deal with the CBSD school board members who consistently vote against Covid safety measures at schools?

How we got here: a skimmable timeline

If you haven’t been able to follow along closely, here’s a recap of how we got to where we are.

  • When drawing up their Covid health and safety plans, CBSD and several other area Bucks County school districts vow to follow guidance from the Bucks County Department of Health (BCDOH). On the surface, that seemed reasonable.

  • The person creating those policies at BCDOH is the county health director, Dr. David H. Damsker.

  • Damsker is married to Emily Schwarz, who appears to be affiliated with anti-mask groups in the county. (More on this below.)

  • Sometime during the spring or summer of 2020, ReOpen Bucks is formed by Josh Hogan. This group states on its website: We do NOT believe COVID to be a hoax. We believe it to be a particularly nasty cold, maybe 2-5 times more deadly than an average influenza.
    Hogan writes multiple blog posts in support of Damsker.

  • Throughout the 2020-21 school year, Damsker downplays the seriousness of Covid, comparing it to the flu. In emails reported on by WHYY last summer, Damsker advised a director at Middle Bucks Institute for Technology on how to skirt reporting rules for the daycare facility. “One easy way of handling this is not to have your parents report COVID to you, any more than they would report influenza to you. That way you won’t know,” he wrote. “If a kid is sick normally, you won’t ask why they are sick.”

  • In early June 2021, citing a low # of cases, Damsker advises that masks should be optional in schools for the remainder of the school year. In a 4-3 vote, the CBSD school board votes to make masks optional for the last five days of school, even though the PA state mask mandate was still in effect until June 28.

  • On July 27, 2021, CDC releases updated guidance and a recommendation for everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to wear a mask in public indoor places, even if they are fully vaccinated.
    This is the current map (9/11/21):

Who is Dr. Damsker?

Oddly, it’s hard to find a resume or career summary for Dr. Damsker anywhere online. (Email me at if you find one.) Some web sleuthing turns up the following:

  • Graduated from Medical College of Pennsylvania Hahnemann School of Medicine, now known as Drexel University College of Medicine, in 2000.

  • Graduated from Tulane University Preventive Medicine Residency Program in 2003.

  • His last position before coming to Bucks County was serving as the Community Health Medical Director, Wake County Human Services, Raleigh, NC.

  • Dr. Damsker was appointed to his post in Bucks County in 2008 and, at that time, received a salary of $165,000.

  • He is currently the highest-paid employee in Bucks County, receiving an annual salary of $220,943. (The second-highest salary in the county goes to District Attorney Matthew Weintraub at $185,665.)

  • There’s no evidence he has any experience as a practicing physician.

Who is Dr. Damsker’s wife?

While it may be hard to find info about Dr. Damsker online, his wife, Emily Schwarz, has a somewhat larger digital footprint.

Here’s what an article on WHYY originally had to say about Schwarz:

However, due to a misspelling in Schwarz’s name (no “t”), ReOpen groups began trolling the WHYY reporter, saying that no Emily Schwartz was affiliated with their group. The reference was removed.

But these screenshots shared by local reporter Cyril Mychalejko paint a different picture. (Follow him on Twitter @cmychalejko or subscribe to his substack.)

This is only the tip of the iceberg

Damsker’s connections to right-wing groups illustrate a larger problem: Organized, well-funded right-wing organizations are actively influencing and backing school board candidates in our area and across the state.

Which current board members have expressed problematic, racist views? Which current school board candidates have been endorsed by extremist groups? We’ll get to that in the next issue.

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