Local pediatrician: Return to in-person learning is the right move

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - “They think the really low risk of severe COVID disease in children is worth the risk, it’s better to go to school and have that little bit of risk of a severe case.”

That’s the initial opinion of local CHI St. Joseph pediatrician, Dr. Neal Spears on the Academy of American Pediatrics memo encouraging in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

He agrees with their assessment and says the benefits of in-person learning significantly outweigh the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

That said, Dr. Spears admits that maintaining social distancing for the youngest learners at the pre-K level will be next to impossible.

“[The Academy of American Pediatricians says] you’re not gonna be able to keep physical distancing, they’re not gonna keep masks on properly. So really it’s about hand hygiene and not coming to school sick,” Dr. Spears explains.

He agrees with the A.A.P.‘s recommendation for all children to wear masks but says it will be difficult for any child under the age of three.

“It may actually increase exposure if children are always fidgeting with the mask and increasing their exposure from their own hands,” Dr. Spears explains.

But Dr. Spears says one of the best ways to cut down on the chances of transmission is to create cohorts in classrooms so that students are only interacting with students within their own cohort.

He says the toughest areas to enforce this will be bus rides, cafeterias, playgrounds, and specialized classes.

But the A.A.P. has a solution for at least specialized classes.

“They’re talking about having kids stay in the room and having teachers change classrooms instead of the kids,” Dr. Spears tells us.

He says there will be confirmed positive cases in schools this fall, but explains that shouldn’t necessarily shut down schools.

Instead, he agrees with the A.A.P. and feels that those cases should be handled at a local level with local governments working with the school districts to make sure they’re taking the appropriate course of action.

But he says personally his biggest concern is not about protecting students, but protecting staff members.

“This seems to be a very rare disease in children,” Dr. Spears explains, “and they don’t seem to spread it very well. But when you’re talking about teachers, nurses, principals, coaches, if they’re a little bit older or have some health conditions, it could be dangerous for them.”

Read the full list of recommendations from the Academy of American Pediatrics here.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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