Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Importance of in-school learning outweighs risks of COVID

"We have to rethink like, 'What are we doing here?' We're chasing milder disease," said Dr. David Rubin.
PHILADELHIA (WPVI) -- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is weighing in on the importance of children remaining in school instead of virtual learning despite a surge of COVID cases in the area.

Officials with CHOP have also adjusted its recommendations on testing for students and staff as new research is being released concerning the omicron variant.

The findings from CHOP medical experts provide more support for keeping schools open as much as possible for in-person instruction.

The consensus is that preserving as much in-person instruction for kids outweighs the risks of COVID infection at this stage of the pandemic.

"We have to rethink like, 'What are we doing here?' We're chasing milder disease," said Dr. David Rubin, executive director of PolicyLab at CHOP.

As hundreds of people flocked to locations across the region to be tested for COVID-19, a statement from PolicyLab and the leadership at CHOP is that while the omicron variant is spreading rapidly, we are fortunate that it appears to be a milder variant for most people.

"I think it's important for us to hit a reset button on school policy and to help schools that are increasingly struggling to stay open," said Rubin.

RELATED: School District of Philadelphia announces 46 schools to go virtual next week amid COVID surge

The group recommends universal masking in schools but drops asymptomatic testing for staff and students and lowers the quarantine lengths.

"If we look at the people who are being asked to quarantine right now, we'd be quarantining everyone, and so as long as you're asymptomatic and wearing a mask, go to school, if you have symptoms, pull yourself out," added Rubin.

The Upper Darby and Marple Newtown school districts are among those that will be following these recommendations.

Both will be requiring masks for in-school learning.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, where the omicron variant originated, the wave has passed with no spike in deaths. Developments are being closely monitored locally by medical experts.

"It's not necessarily indicative of how it's going to work here in the United States, but it's possible," said Dr. David Mariness of Einstein Medical Center.

The U.S. is averaging over 580,000 cases a day.

"Even though the severity of omicron may be less, just the sheer volume of infections is going to result in likely equivalent or more hospitalizations," said Mariness.

He says vaccinated individuals may still get the virus, but they are protected against hospitalization and death.

Right now, according to the CDC, every state in the U.S. is reporting an increase in virus-positive hospital admissions.

Some hospitals in the region are reported at or near capacity.

But the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S. may see a dramatic drop in new cases soon, like in South Africa.

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