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What infectious disease experts say needs to be done for kids to have in-person classes

Empty classroom covid-19
Posted at 3:01 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 18:06:11-04

(WXYZ) — We are only weeks away from the start of the school year in Michigan, and we continue to see a concerning number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

We have heard from school leaders, and while some will begin virtually, others are still planning to meet in person. Some say social distancing is simply not possible due to class sizes.

So what do infectious disease experts have to say?

WXYZ spoke to two top doctors, Dr. Matthew Sims, the Director of Infectious Disease Research at Beaumont Health and Dr. Anurag Malani, the Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control at Saint Joseph Mercy Health.

They both share a special title that means they care a lot about the opening of schools – dad.

“Everyone wants school to start. I have a 4th grader to be. I have a 6th grader to be,” Malani said.

“I have a kid in middle school. I have a kid in elementary school. It is difficult,” Sims added.

They are watching COVID-19 trends in Michigan. Since June 9, we have seen an upward trend in cases statewide.

“Right now Michigan is in an upswing,” Sims said

The questions are, will this continue - and does it impact every community?

“And so the decision to start school is not a state-based decision, it is a decision on what does the prevalence of infection look like in that community,” Malani said.

Malani says he would want to see a two-week trend of decreases in the number of cases, the percentage of positive tests, and hospitalizations, before considering in-person learning in a community.

“Schools are a microcosm of what happens in the community, so if you have significant community transmission you undoubtedly are going to see transmission in schools,” said Dr. Malani.

And while we have heard young children are less likely to get severely ill, Dr. Sims says right now Florida is seeing a 23% increase in children hospitalized due to COVID and they can still spread the virus.

“Kids could serve as the way that families who were appropriately distancing and appropriately sheltering and using masks still end up getting infected,” warns Dr. Sims.

Dr. Sims is raising a red flag after hearing some districts say they simply can’t socially distance appropriately but plan to open.

“That is not an acceptable answer. That wasn’t the answer for bars. It wasn’t the answer for restaurants. That wasn’t the answer for malls. That wasn’t the answer for anything and it can’t be the answer for schools,” said Dr. Sims.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.