Dr. Amesh Adalja optimistic about US schools being 'safely opened' in fall

Dr. Amesh Adalja is optimistic about schools being able to reopen again in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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In an interview on Wednesday's "Fox News Rundown" podcast with host Lisa Brady, Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and Infectious Disease, noted that the way the new coronavirus impacts children, in particular, is a key part of a potential return to some sort of semblance of normalcy for students.

"I mean, some districts are definitely planning at this point to at least try to open. But, what would it take for you to be telling them, 'No, you shouldn't?' Or would you already be saying that?" asked Brady.

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"Schools...were closed basically reflexively because of extrapolations from Influenza. And, we're finding that this virus behaves very differently than Influenza," he stated. "In influenza, children are major magnifiers of infection. And, we're not seeing that so much with this virus. We're not hearing about epidemics that are being started or outbreaks being started or driven by children."

All 50 states have begun to reopen in some way -- with substantial variations based on analysis -- amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes come even as U.S. health experts warn of a potential second wave of cases and citizens hold their breath.

In addition, a rare but serious coronavirus-linked inflammatory condition in children has presented a new fear for parents across the nation.

Terrell Bell, wearing a protective face mask, looks at a learning guide he picked up for his little sister at John H. Webster Elementary School in Philadelphia, Thursday, March 26, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration reported more new coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Residents are ordered to stay home, with few exceptions. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Terrell Bell, wearing a protective face mask, looks at a learning guide he picked up for his little sister at John H. Webster Elementary School in Philadelphia, Thursday, March 26, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration reported more new coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Residents are ordered to stay home, with few exceptions. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"We know that there have been schools already open in the United States, in places like Montana and Idaho, and they seem to be operating okay," Adalja noted. "We know some countries didn't close schools. And, we also know that daycare centers for essential workers were open throughout this pandemic and we haven't heard about outbreaks there.

"So, I think that when it comes to opening schools -- because children are relatively spared from the epidemiology of this -- meaning, they don't transmit it, they don't seem to be driving outbreaks, and they seem to be spared from severe cases -- I do think this is something that's one of the first things that probably can open. And, I do think that we will see schools being opened," he predicted.

Adalja told Brady that while it is obvious that vulnerable or high-risk groups that might work in schools must also be protected, there a "modified" version of school will likely be able to work.

"Because you have to remember that there are major societal costs [of] having schools closed," he said. "Many children get their meals from schools. Many, many children -- especially as stay-at-home order are lifted -- are going to congregate outside of schools and kind of defeat the purpose of it. And, you have to remember that most of this distance learning that's gone on has not been very successful.

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"I think there are real psychosocial costs to the system that we're doing right now, which is really magnifying differences between school districts and resources between school districts," Adalja argued.

"So, I do think that schools are a separate decision. And, I think based on all the data we have now on children and their role in this infection, I do think it's likely something that can be done safely and should be done," he concluded.