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Keeping schools safe in pandemic

Teachers in Warren County are similar to their peers nationwide in that they want to be in the classroom with their students but worry about getting COVID-19.

Some teachers are in age groups or have pre-existing conditions that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19, but it’s worth noting that both the CDC and doctors are finding that in-person education is largely safe if precautions are followed.

Three doctors — Margaret A. Honein, Lisa C. Barrios and John T. Brooks — wrote last week in a viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools.”

Keeping schools safe to be open, they wrote, hinged on limiting community spread outside of schools and taking basic measures inside schools by requiring universal face mask use, increasing physical distance by dedensifying classrooms and common areas, using hybrid attendance models when needed to limit the total number of contacts and prevent crowding.

The report should not be taken to mean there aren’t concerns or that teachers’ concerns should be disregarded. That would be the wrong message.

The most important takeaway is that schools can be opened because, by and large, teachers and students are good about following safety precautions. Only complete isolation eliminates the risk of contracting COVID-19, but schools appear to be one of the safest places for children and teachers to be.

If we want schools open, then we must do our part to limit community spread of COVID-19 until more doses of the COVID vaccine make their way into our community.

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