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Health Officials: We must act now and mask up to safely open schools

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 4:24 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - For many school district, their goal is to get kids safely back to school this fall in some form, but in order to do that, a local pediatrician says we need to act now and mask up.

"They have suffered a lot. I mean, it's been a big challenge for them," said Dr. Yolo Diaz, pediatrician at N.E.W. Community Clinic.

Dr. Diaz said kids have been impacted academically, medically and physically.

"Some of the kids have fallen behind their immunizations," said Dr. Diaz. "There has been an increase in domestic violence and child abuse as far as calls to 911."

However, one thing Dr. Diaz doesn't know is how the coronavirus will react in a school setting.

"The children haven't been gathering all together. The schools abruptly closed in March and they have been in their homes. They don't go to bars. So we don't know," said Dr. Diaz.

Although preliminary research shows most kids don't get as sick as adults, they can carry the virus.

"When putting them all together, we may find, because again this is our new virus, children that are more susceptible," said Dr. Diaz.

"It's also important to remember, it's not just children in a school setting," said Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health. "It's teachers and other staff member that are necessary to educate them, so keeping them safe should be a priority if you want your child educated.

Dr. Diaz said other countries may give us some idea of what school could look like in the fall, but its infection rates are much lower than the United States are right now.

"The models that we've seen in other countries like, for example South Korea, the numbers are so low that the kids were able to go back to school. They are all wearing masks and they have a lot of precautions," said Dr. Diaz. "I don't know of any area in the world that has brought children into a classroom with a high level of infections within the community so we will be finding out and it's it's scary. It can go well, but it can go wrong."

Dr. Rai said in early June, he was well prepared to help school districts navigate COVID-19 because the percent of positive cases was below 3 percent.

"Now it's significantly higher and creates a situation within a classroom that is much riskier than it was 3 weeks ago or 4 weeks ago," said Dr. Rai.

Both Dr. Rai and Dr. Diaz are adament: we must act now, wear masks and social distance if we want schools to safely reopen in the fall.

“We are hearing from the CDC director who says if we all mask we may be able to decrease significantly the numbers in four to six weeks and that’s kind of exactly the time frame for the Wisconsin schools to open,” said Dr. Diaz.

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