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Utah pediatricians group advocates for students in the classroom, conditionally

FILE -- Senior students wait for class to begin with plastic boards placed on their desks at Jeonmin High School in Daejeon, South Korea, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. South Korean students began returning to schools Wednesday as their country prepares for a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kim Jun-beom/Yonhap via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY— The American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP) released two widely read statements recently about students returning to school this fall saying that having students in the classroom is important, and should be done safely.

In the first statement, released about 2 weeks ago the Pediatricians said they “strongly [advocate] that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” 

The second, more recent statement back-pedaled a bit emphasizing safety and science as the measures for re-opening.  We called the Utah Chapter Of the AAP to get their thoughts on the Beehive State’s readiness. 

Dr. Paul Wirkus, President of the Utah Chapter Of the AAP says kids really benefit greatly from in-class learning, as opposed to remote options.

“Interaction with other kids, an learning environment with dedicated teachers.  In addition, there are other layers like [the ability] to help kids with special needs… some kids need to be able to go to school to eat lunch, and there are kids whose parents aren’t available to supervise [their learning] at home.”  He adds, “This is not intended to be a risky proposition.  What we are seeing is that kids are not the superspreaders [of the virus] that some thought they would be.”

Wirkus backs up the second AAP statement, particularly in regard to teachers.  “The hope is adequate attention, both personal attention by the [staff] to wearing masks, hand sanitizing… [and] attention from the school district and the state.  [They need to] step up to try and create a creatively safe environment as possible so we’re not putting teachers at risk.”

Is Utah ready for students in the classroom?

“I think we have to look at the big picture,” says Wirkus. “If we look at Florida right now, I would be very hesitant that that is the situation… to be on a fast track to open schools.”  What about Utah, today?  “Probably… A lot of that depends on what we can do over the next month or so.  I think that every plan should be for in-class instruction.  If things go badly south, then the answer is absolutely no.”  Wirkus hopes that the Utah community as a whole can bear down, by wearing masks and social distancing, and not pursuing high-risk behavior.  


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How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.