Time and money have been invested in getting the nation's children back in school, so it is "irresponsible" to return children to remote learning, even with the current omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said Tuesday on Newsmax.
"I have noticed that everyone understands the personal value of in-person education," Jha said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "It was one thing in the first couple of months of the pandemic, in March, April, or May of 2020, but by the fall of 2020, it was pretty clear kids could come back to school safely."
Jha's comments come after he tweeted Monday to question why schools are once again closing, noting that "with mitigation, we've seen very little in-school transmission."
"My kids were going back to school yesterday, but also I was starting to see a lot of talk about shutting schools down again," said Jha on Newsmax. "I think at this moment, shutting schools down is irresponsible … schools can do this, and if they haven't done anything, if they haven't made any efforts to improve ventilation, that should not be on the kids."
Meanwhile, it is time for a change in the way that COVID-19 testing is done, Jha said, but he disagreed with comments from Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who said the state is calling for more "value" to be put on tests from older or vulnerable people than on those coming from younger people or the asymptomatic, according to local news reports from CBS-12.
"Let's talk about that 8-year-old that is getting tested," said Jha. "You say, Well, why do I care? We're not going to do anything differently. Except, that 8-year-old may go visit Grandma this weekend."
Further, health experts want to track what's happening with infections, and the response to a positive test is important, said Jha.
"We don't want to freak out over the 8-year-old testing positive, but maybe if they're positive, don't go visit Grandma this weekend," said Jha. "That's the confusing part because the 8-year-old might be asymptomatic."
Even if the old person is fully vaccinated and boosted, "I'm not sure that if my kid was infectious, I'd still want to visit or have them visit. Just like if my kid had the flu. I'm not sure I'd want them to go visit my parents, so I think that's a pretty reasonable thing to do, to say we should test kids before they go visit high-risk people as a reasonable way to protect high-risk people."
Jha also commented on reports that the Centers for Disease Control is considering whether to ask people to have a negative test before coming out of isolation, after last month shortening the recommended isolation time from 10 days to five, and Jha said the most important thing is that people follow the five-day time period.
"Most of that time that you're contagious is in the first five days, so I think the most important thing people need to be doing is isolating for the first five days," he said. "We don't want contagious people out there if we can avoid it as just another way to prevent transmission. I think it's inevitable with an endemic virus."
However, Jha said a shift must be made toward rapid antigen tests.
"If we started using PCR [tests] for that, everybody's going to be positive forever," said Jha. "No one would be able to get back to their lives. It's going to be a mess."
The doctor also said people should stay home and away from their local emergency rooms unless they are experiencing more than routine cold symptoms.
"If you're feeling like you've got a bad cold, stay at home; and if you want to test, get a rapid antigen test," said Jha. "If you've got regular cold, even bad cold symptoms, unless you're having problems breathing, having chest pains, anything that serious, there's no reason to go to the hospital."
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