Fauci urges caution, ‘step-by-step’ approach in reopening schools

Dive Brief:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to the U.S. Senate that how and when schools reopen will likely vary from region to region, Chalkbeat reports.
  • Fauci acknowledged while keeping kids out of school is causing problems, the novel coronavirus’ impact on children is still unknown, and pointed out that while the number of deaths among children is low, emerging data indicates some may be afflicted by an inflammatory condition after coming into contact with the virus.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), who presented a number of concerns during the session, urged Fauci and other public healthcare experts present to offer some reasonable safety guidance and reopening scenarios to inform decisions by states and districts. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) (pictured above) contended decisions on reopening schools should be made at the local level, as a one-size-fits-all strategy can’t account for individual factors on the ground.

Dive Insight:

Official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control is under review and coming “soon,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told senators during the same testimony. Fauci also ultimately suggested reopening decisions would vary and need to be made on “a step-by-step basis,” a suggestion lining up with Paul’s assertion.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized caution around reopening schools as “not an acceptable answer,” CNN reports.

With September still a few months away, little is still known about how the virus will be circulating and whether it will be safe to reopen, yet a number of states are set to make decisions. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb plans to make an announcement mid-May about whether the state’s schools will reopen in the fall. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told school administrators to prepare for both online and in-person classes.

In California, districts were told to make their own decisions about when and if to reopen classrooms. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said his department will provide guidance on reopening, which is based on a task force studying the logistical challenges of doing so. He said some districts may opt to open early to address the equity gap.

More than 6.2 million students are learning online in California. Previously, Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested schools could open as early as July or August. Students and staff may have to don masks when they return, and some districts are considering staggered attendance days.

One school in rural Montana has already opened after 76% of parents surveyed indicated they wanted class to resume. There, students don’t have to wear masks, but social distancing is observed on the playground, class release times are staggered, and the building is regularly cleaned.

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