SoCal school leaders encouraged by CDC guidelines for reopening schools during pandemic

From KCAL9

By Stacey Butler

The Center for Disease Control released new guidelines on Friday for students returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have seen the negative mental health effects on my patients,” said pediatrician Dr. Kate Williamson of the long-term time away from school. “I have also seen the physical effects. I’ve seen the rise of obesity in my patients as well.”

Williamson is the president of the Orange County chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She said she isn’t surprised that the CDC is pushing for schools to reopen.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has been saying we recognize it’s really important for kids to get back to school as soon as we can, but with safety guidelines,” Williamson said.

The new guidelines outlined by the CDC call for learning in pods. Kids should be masked starting at age 5. They should stay physically distanced, get screened on their way into class, and schools should have a plan for kids and family members who get sick.

“It is our firm belief that schools are essential places of business,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Our teachers are essential personnel.”

Williamson said kids under the age of 10 don’t transmit the virus as easily as adults. However, she admits schools reopening will only work if community transmission goes down.

“The recommendations from the state is if we can have less than 100 per 100,000 positive cases for everybody tested, then the schools would be safe to go back,” she said. “Right now, we’re about 230. So, we’re about two to two-and-a-half times more than that. If we can reduce the rates in the next two weeks to a month, we might actually be able to be in a place where we feel safe about our kids going back to school.”

Tamara Fairbanks, the president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers said she is encouraged by the CDC’s announcement.

“It’s a relief actually,” she said.

But, she also says she’s yet to hear about specific safety guidelines for older schools in O.C. to reopen.

“My goal is to make sure that those kids and those teachers — no matter where they’re at — can be safe,” she said.