At Least 97,000 Children Tested Positive For Coronavirus In Last 2 Weeks Of July

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The Coronavirus Crisis
When Can Kids Go Back To School? Leaders Say ‘As Soon As It’s Safe’

«While Chicago remains in a better place than many other regions of the country,» said Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, «these recent trends are very concerning.»

But in many communities, the decision to reopen schools is being driven by politics, not local public health conditions. In Florida and Texas, some public health officials have been reportedly sidelined by state leaders who have been outspoken in their desire for schools to reopen quickly.

In a recent review of school reopening plans and local voting trends, Jon Valant of the Brookings Institution found no relationship statistically between reopening decisions and counties’ new COVID-19 cases per capita. Instead, he found that «on average, districts that have announced plans to reopen in person are located in counties in which 55% voted for Trump in 2016, compared [with] 35% in districts that have announced plans for remote learning only.»

Last week, students at Georgia’s North Paulding High School posted photos and videos showing packed hallways at the school and few students wearing face coverings. Though the district is in an outer suburb of Atlanta, where infection rates remain relatively high, schools reopened for in-person instruction last week. This weekend, though, the school reported that six students and three staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus and that in-person classes would temporarily move online to give the school time to disinfect.

Coronavirus Live Updates
9 Test Positive For Coronavirus After In-Person Classes Resume At Georgia High School

What does all this mean for schools?

«In places where there is really good control of the virus,» O’Leary said, «with mitigation measures in place, I think it’s reasonably safe to open schools. We’re never going to get to zero risk.»

New York City is a prime example of a school district that plans to reopen its schools partially this fall because the broader community followed safety guidelines and dramatically reduced infection rates, with 1% of coronavirus tests now turning out positive.

But in places where the virus is still spreading widely, O’Leary said, these new data are an important reminder that reopening schools may not be safe. If the coronavirus is circulating in a community, he said, it is inevitable it will follow students and staff to school.

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