- A top public health expert said that in-person school is safe for teachers and students.
- Dr. Ashish Jha made the comments on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
- Schools across the country scrambling to tackle spikes in COVID-19 cases without closing.
A top doctor said Sunday that it’s safe for students and teachers to be in school despite concern about the spread of Omicron.
“Remote learning has been a disaster for America’s kids and I think we have to acknowledge that and we have to do everything that we can to minimize any further remote learning,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on ABC’s ‘”This Week.”
“I understand teachers’ frustrations,” he added. “A lot of school districts did not use the billions of dollars that they had gotten to put in improvements in ventilation and other upgrades.”
Jha said that being vaccinated and utilizing masks will help keep teachers and children safe.
“If people are vaccinated — teachers should be all vaccinated and boosted — if people wear high-quality masks, even without those other upgrades … it’s still is safe for kids and teachers to be back in school,” Jha added. “I think at this point there’s really no good explanation for having remote schools.”
—This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 9, 2022
Thousands of schools across the country have closed their doors and gone remote in the first weeks of January as they grappled with staffing shortages and a surge in COVID-19 cases. Schools were struggling to remain open before Omicron became the dominant variant in the US. The previously prevalent Delta variant led to a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases and child hospitalizations rates reached record levels before the end of last summer.
Teachers have argued that Omicron has shifted how schools attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. They’ve called for new protocols to keep students and staff safe.
Kathryn Vaughn, an elementary art teacher in rural west Tennessee told Education Week the Omicron variant “has been a total game-changer,” adding she has an “overwhelming sense of paranoia and fear” of contracting the virus.
“We’ve come back [after winter break] to something that’s completely different, and no one is prepared,” she told the outlet.
In New York City, which is currently a coronavirus hotspot in the US, local officials are adamant about not closing school doors. Last week, the New York City Department of Education informed teachers that they could return to work in five days instead of 10 if they tested positive for COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. That directive matches widely criticized guidance issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union are currently engaged in a standoff over abrupt school closures. Schools across the city closed with little notice to families last week after 73% of the union, which has over 25,000 members, voted to defy orders to return to in-person classes. The CTU demanded higher quality KN95 masks and other PPE as well as an automatic transition to virtual learning should the city’s 7-day positivity rate spike again.
Parents and students are caught in the middle of the impasse and are once again facing the decision to keep their child in school or opt instead for virtual learning.
“On the one hand, they’re safe when they’re home. We know where they are. We can limit who comes to the house or not,” one parent told Insider last week. “But at the same time, they are not getting the same education. They just aren’t.”
Courtesy By INSIDER