SCHOOLS OR BARS? OPENING CLASSROOMS MAY MEAN HARD CHOICES
Techlife News|Techlife News #454
President Donald Trump insists that schools reopen this fall. Many parents, educators, doctors and economists want the same thing. But getting children back to school safely could mean keeping high-risk spots like bars and gyms closed.

A growing chorus of public health experts is urging federal, state and local officials to reconsider how they are reopening the broader economy, and to prioritize K-12 schools — an effort that will likely require closing some other establishments to help curb the virus spread and give children the best shot at returning to classrooms.

“We need to think about what our priorities are as a society, and some other things may just have to wait,” said Helen Jenkins, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University. “I think there are hard choices having to be made by decision makers.”

Schools are crucial to communities in ways that go beyond basic learning. They also provide children with friends, food and other support systems. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports children physically returning to classrooms.

Schools are also a key part of getting the economy going, said David Rothschild, an economist at Microsoft Research.

“It’s what allows so many adults, especially people without much means, to get back to work,” Rothschild said. “There’s this huge downstream effect in the short run of getting people back into school, which you may not be able to say in the same sort of way for bars and restaurants.”

But if a community has a high level of infection, public health experts say reopening classrooms will be risky, even if schools try to require masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

Hundreds of children and staff have been infected in COVID-19 outbreaks tied to graduation ceremonies and summer camps, including in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, and Florida. Organizers of at least one of the camps said they were following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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