HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi State Medical Association are voicing their concerns for the health of students, teachers and staff as schools prepare to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Anita Henderson, a Hattiesburg Clinic Pediatrician and president-elect of the Mississippi AAP, is one of the Mississippi doctors behind a set of recommendations for schools to open safely. The first suggestion: delay reopening until after Sept. 1.
“The reason we came out with those recommendations right now is we are seeing extremely high cases of coronavirus in the community, and we are also seeing no access to hospital beds and ICU beds,” Henderson said.
Henderson said testing is another reason for the suggested delay.
“We are having trouble with testing, having the turn around time being four to seven days in some situation,” Henderson said. “So, lack of rapid testing along with high cases in the community right now makes us feel that opening school right now is unsafe.”
Henderson said the physicians of the Mississippi Chapter of the AAP and the Mississippi State Medical Association are also asking for universal masks in schools and the public, which Gov. Tate Reeves enforced when he signed a statewide mask mandate and an executive order for masks in schools on Tuesday.
Henderson said another recommendation is remote learning for schools.
“We do recommend that each school allows children to learn virtually, because we know some children have high risk, they have high risk within their family and they should have that opportunity to learn remotely,” Henderson said.
Henderson said however districts decide to open, in order to stay open safely, schools, parents, students and staff will have to implement the three Ws.
“Number one: wear a mask. Number two: wash your hands and teach your children to wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and the third is watch your distance,” Henderson said.
Henderson’s message for parents is these next few months will be a challenge and flexibility will be the key to get through it. She said prepare for the possibility that schools may start traditional and may go completely virtual.
“For instance, if a student in your class turns out to have coronavirus, several surrounding classmates my have to be quarantined for two weeks,” Henderson said. “If several in your class have coronavirus, the entire class may have to quarantine for two weeks. And if there are several small outbreaks within a school, the whole school may have to shut down for two weeks.”
Henderson said, of course, these are not requirements, but recommendations to support a safe start to a new school year.