If governors want schools to reopen in the fall, they have to contain the amount of coronavirus in their communities now, and that begins with pausing or rolling back reopening plans, Dr. Ashish Jha said Wednesday on The Lead with Jake Tapper.
“I've been talking to governors about pauses. I've been talking about what they want to roll back. And when they understand the choices in stark terms— schools this fall or bars now — those are your choices … I think more and more governors, even in places that aren't having large outbreaks, are realizing that maybe we can avoid bars in the summer and fall, if that gives us a better shot at getting schools open this fall,” Jha said, who is director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
“The single biggest determinant of whether we're going to be able to open schools and keep schools open is how much virus there is in the community,” Jha added. “So when I look at large parts of the country right now, and think if that's the level of virus we have going into September, we're not going be able to keep schools open. So, we've got to get aggressive by bringing the virus levels down and accept that kids will do a little bit of transmission and hopefully, very few of them will actually end up getting sick themselves.”
Asked what would happen if transmission rates are high and schools try to reopen, Jha said, “What would happen is that kids would show up — they might be infected themselves with mild symptoms — they would spread it to others, maybe a little less efficiently than adults, but still spread. They'd spread it to their teachers and staff, and they'd go home and they'd spread it to the parents and grandparents. So they would become another source. And given that all these kids are getting together indoors, I think we'd see large outbreaks in schools, and it would become very untenable to keep schools open. That's why you got to keep the virus in the community low because if we can do that, then we can open schools."
And it’s about more than just keeping crowd-attracting sites closed, Jha said.
“You can’t have bars and gyms open. I’m not sure you have restaurants open. You've got to have mandatory mask-wearing and you've got to push on surveillance, testing, tracing — all the stuff we've been talking about,” he said.
“Do all of that throughout the summer, I think there's a pretty good chance most states can bring their outbreaks to much, much lower levels, and then open up school safely.”