Top Doctor Shares His Thoughts on Heading Back to School
Dr. Rajeev Fernando is one of New York's top infectious disease specialists, and with the school year scheduled to start next week, he shares his professional opinion on how safe it is for kids to return to the classroom.
Every Thursday, Dr. Rajeev Fernando joins us to answer your COVID-19 questions, and this week, with most schools getting ready to head back, we talked about how safe it is for kids to return to the classroom.
In less than a week, students will be returning to school. Some schools are opening up full time, others have adopted a hybrid schedule, and some are continuing the online learning classes. With more young people testing positive, how safe do you think it is for students and teachers heading back to school?
My concern would be really more for the teachers rather than the students. Kids have less receptors in their respiratory epithelium. You have ace receptors, which are less in kids, so they don't manifest symptoms, that's why you don't see as many cases of COVID-19 compared to adults. The teachers, of course, have to be cautious because the students can transmit the virus to them.
I think we have to open based on science and epidemiology, the other thing I feel, and it's the most important thing, we have to ask the schools if they are ready. If the schools say we're not ready, you should never push them to open, even with the states position. The school itself has to be ready, that's really important, and I like to use the X factor, which is the unknown of COVID-19. We could do everything based on what science is telling us and say it's safe to open up, but with COVID-19, since we're all still learning about it, that's the X factor. What that really means is, we should treat it like a traffic light where you have a red, yellow and green light. When you start school and reopen, you're in the green, but you always need to be in a situation where if you're a little suspicious of something and you're not happy with the way things are going, you might have to go back to yellow. If schools find themselves in a bad situation with the virus and with outbreaks, go to red. The important thing is for schools, not to try and just push through, that's whats already happened in a few states like Texas and Florida. They opened and tried to push through figuring it would be OK, but it wasn't OK.
We have another holiday coming up, do you see any possible problems cropping up?
My big concern is the Labor Day weekend, we saw spikes after Memorial Day, and we saw spikes after the fourth of July. It's the end of summer, things are going to get cooler soon, and Labor day is a big celebration weekend, so I urge people, especially when you're out, make sure you wear a mask because it's going to be crowded and congested, and people won't be able to maintain that six feet distance. I encourage everyone to be really cautious during the weekend to avoid any spikes prior to schools reopening.