Tags: Coronavirus | Health Topics | covid-19 | reopening schools

Experts Weigh In on Children and COVID-19

a summer school classroom in monterey park california
A summer school classroom in Monterey Park, California (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 13 July 2020 11:11 AM

President Donald Trump wants schools to reopen this fall, despite the surge in coronavirus cases. Experts say there are social advantages in having children return to physical classrooms, but that schools will have to be proactive in instituting and enforcing safety protocols.

While children do not appear to be as susceptible as adults to contracting COVID-19 or experiencing severe complications from the disease, it's important to mitigate the risk of transmission.

"The younger you are, probably the less likely you are to be able to transmit the disease," Dr. William Raszka, a pediatric infectious disease expert from Burlington, Vermont, tells NBC News.

Dr. Jennifer Lighter, another infectious disease pediatrician from NYU Langone Health in New York, says that getting children back into classrooms is an "ideal situation," but she emphasizes that even though their risk of infection and transmission is low, precautions need to be taken.

Lighter says this includes limiting the number of students in a classroom, spacing out desks, and moving some activities such as physical fitness outdoors. She adds that "children have had significant social and emotional concerns from online learning over the past several months," explaining that remote learning doesn't work well for very young children, especially those who live in poverty, according to NBC News.

While many experts say that with precautions in place, sending children back to school is a positive move for their emotional well-being as well as their education, others point to real-life situations where it backfired.

According to the New York Post, three Arizona summer school teachers became infected with the coronavirus even though they followed the recommended safety protocols. One of them, 61-year-old Kimberly Chavez Lopez Byrd, died. The two other teachers who tested positive are still suffering from COVID-19 complications. District superintendent Jeff Gregorich says that Byrd's death is an argument against the reopening of schools.

"I think that really the message or the concern that our staff has is we can't keep our staff safe by themselves … How are we going to keep 20 kids in a classroom safe?" he said, according to the Post.

Dr. Shilpa Patel, a pediatrician from New Jersey, tells NBC News that she has no qualms about sending her own children back to school in the fall.

"Nothing will be normal until we get a vaccine," she says. "These are trying times that we are living in, but yes, I will send my kids back to school in September."

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Experts say there are social advantages in having children return to physical classrooms, but that schools will have to be proactive in instituting and enforcing safety protocols.
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2020-11-13
Monday, 13 July 2020 11:11 AM
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