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Florida Pediatricians Urging Caution In Reopening Schools

The president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics told The Florida Roundup that schools need to consider the prevalence of the coronavirus in their communities very carefully before making the decision to reopen.
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new statement Friday clarifying its position when it comes to schools reopening this fall.

They said schools should reopen on a case-by-case basis, and that markers for safety should be determined by local school leaders, public health experts, educators and parents working together.

Earlier guidance from two weeks agosaid "schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being," and that early evidence from school closures in the spring of this year shows the negative impacts of time away from school, including "social isolation, learning deficits and interruption of supportive services."

The statement also said transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon because the coronavirus "appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses."

But Florida chapter president Dr. Paul Robinson told The Florida Roundup that contradicts what he knows:

“I’ve always been taught and discovered that kids are super-spreaders," Robinson said Friday.  "My wife and I will both tell you that when our kids got sick when they were little, we always got sick.”

Dr. Paul Robinson says schools need to consider the ethical implications of opening too soon.
The Florida Channel
Dr. Paul Robinson says schools need to consider the ethical implications of opening too soon.

Robinson agreed with the more localized approach of the revised statement, saying that each region needs to consider its "viral load" - the status of the virus in their community - in any reopening plan. 

As far as schools reopening in Florida, Robinson said COVID-19 remains a very real threat.

“It would be irresponsible to go head-over-heels into school without keeping an eye on the viral infections in the state,” he said.

Part of the pushback came from educators who are not comfortable returning to schools, such as members of a Viriginia teachers' union who told NPR they're afraid for their lives.

Robinson also acknowledged that fear, particularly for teachers who are older and at greater risk of catching the coronavirus.

“From an ethical standpoint, keeping people alive trumps everything else,” he said.

The Florida Roundup airs Friday at noon on WUSF 89.7.

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Lisa Peakes is the local host of NPR's All Things Considered on WUSF 89.7.