Huntsville pediatrician explains risks of going back to school during the pandemic

Dr. Kevin Ellis says it's inevitable that the virus will spread to all schools and it will be a difficult decision to see how far schools let the outbreak spread.

Posted: Aug 7, 2020 7:44 PM
Updated: Aug 7, 2020 11:03 PM

A Huntsville pediatrician said schools and parents have to enforce the wearing of masks and social distancing if we're to have any chance of stopping outbreaks of coronavirus in classrooms.

“Really, I can't emphasize it enough to wear a mask,” Dr. Kevin Ellis said. “I know that the students haven’t seen each other since March, but do not share things, do not be in each other's faces.”

Dr. Ellis said there’s definitely a risk associated with sending kids to school this year and no one is expecting this to help cases go down. He says education needs to start at home, with parents preparing their children -- making sure they know the importance of masking, distancing and sanitizing.

Alabama's mask order -- in effect through August 31 -- requires students from second grade through college to wear masks “whenever practical.”

Ellis warns that kids can still get very sick but noted that children under 10 seem to exhibit weaker symptoms and lower transmission rates.

“But you still need to be very careful. So, it’s a little safer to open up the elementary schools and some of the preschools than what it is for some of the upper schools,” he said.

Ellis says it is inevitable that the virus will reach every school and says there’s a lot of debate about how far schools should let an outbreak grow before shutting down.

Ellis said that in cases of the flu, schools are shut down when 10% of students have it.

“For coronavirus, you’ve really almost risked a bad outbreak at a school if you wait until 10%, so I think many doctors agree that for coronavirus, being more serious than the flu, then we need that number to be lower than 10%,” he said. “But the debate is how much lower?”

Ellis added that he expects the entire medical community to push the flu vaccine this year in an effort to reduce the chance of fighting two epidemics at once.

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