Under PolicyLab guidance, no local schools would meet in-person criteria

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local health experts from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are weighing in on the reopening of schools.

"New outbreaks could originate from schools very quickly if we don't do this right," said Dr. David Rubin, Director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Across the country, communities are asking, should schools reopen amid this pandemic?

A new COVID-19 data projection dashboard and school reopening guidance by the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says many schools should delay reopening.

"We have seen increasing studies over the summer that children have fairly high viral loads, that symptomatic children and certainly adolescents are likely to transmit this virus," said Rubin.

Rubin says CHOP's data is used to update states with information about the spread of COVID-19 within various communities. Its projections continue to show concerns for a resurgence.

With that forecast, his teams suggest schools hold off on in-person or hybrid learning.

"The thresholds to reopen schools fully with a full hybrid or in-school instruction plan, we ask for a decline in weekly case incidents and a trend. The trend is important here. A decline in case incidents that approaches 10 cases per 100,000, per week," said Rubin.

Under the guidance from PolicyLab, no districts in the tri-state would meet the criteria to open for in-person learning.

Health experts say the strict recommendation is all about safety.

Colleges and universities like UNC-Chapel Hill opened and had to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

At other schools like Villanova, there have been scenes of large students gatherings, not wearing masks and not practicing social distance guidelines.

"You have a good plan, but I know most college administrators know that there are going to be knuckleheads in every school," said Rubin. "What I would say is this, it comes down to your enforcement."

The bottom line, when comes to returning to schools, doctors say it's not about dates but the data.

"Let's not let the pressure get kids back in the classroom and lead us to make a decision too quickly that we are going to regret a bit if we have to close schools a little bit early than we wanted," said Dr. Rubin.

CHOP was granted access to Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data about county positivity rates for the project.

The hospital uses its projections to provide ongoing information to the federal Coronavirus Task Force, and its data is used to update states with information about the spread of the virus within their various communities.
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