DeVos in­sists kids can re­turn to school safely

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION | WORLD - BY LIND­SEY TANNER AP Med­i­cal Writer

As the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pushes full steam ahead to force schools to re­sume in­per­son ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic health ex­perts warn that a one-size-fits-all re­open­ing could drive in­fec­tion and death rates even higher.

They’re urg­ing a more cau­tious ap­proach, which many lo­cal gov­ern­ments and school dis­tricts are al­ready pur­su­ing.

But U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos dou­bled down on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­sis­tence that kids can safely re­turn to the class­room.

“There’s noth­ing in the data that sug­gests that kids be­ing in school is in any way dan­ger­ous,” she told Chris Wal­lace on “Fox News Sun­day.”

Still, health ex­perts say there are too many un­cer­tain­ties and vari­ables for back-to-school to be backto-nor­mal.

Where is the virus spread­ing rapidly? Do stu­dents live with aged grand­par­ents? Do teach­ers have high-risk health con­di­tions that would make on­line teach­ing safest? Do in­fected chil­dren eas­ily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?

Re­gard­ing the lat­ter, some ev­i­dence sug­gests they don’t, but a big govern­ment study aims to find bet­ter proof. Re­sults won’t be avail­able be­fore the fall.

“Th­ese are com­pli­cated is­sues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, said Wed­nes­day dur­ing an on­line brief­ing.

Chil­dren in­fected with coro­n­avirus are more likely than adults to have mild ill­nesses, but their risk for se­vere disease and death isn’t zero.

“The sin­gle most im­por­tant thing we can do to keep our schools safe has noth­ing to do with what hap­pens in school. It’s how well we con­trol COVID-19 in the com­mu­nity,” Frieden said.

DeVos said lo­cal school of­fi­cials are smart enough to know when con­di­tions are not right.

“There’s go­ing to be the ex­cep­tion to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on CNN called DeVos’ com­ments “malfea­sance and dere­lic­tion of duty.”

Betsy DeVos

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