A Case For Reopening Wake County Schools

While surrounding counties plan on reopening, the Wake County School Board continues to stall on reopening despite data and information presented to the board from a panel of doctors.

On September 15, Dr. Danny Benjamin, Dr. Theresa Flynn and Dr. Theresa Kallman, members of the ABC Science Collaborative, attended the school board meeting and provided their professional assessment of reopening Wake County schools. This group of scientists and physicians understand that “there is an urgent public health need to get children back in school while keeping them, their teachers, school staff, and the community safe and healthy.”

“There’s no greater risk for children or teachers should schools reopen.” ~ Dr. Danny Benjamin

We have already been warned about the negative impact of children not going back to school. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”

Dr. Danny Benjamin stated that reopening schools is a “risk benefit decision.” He continued, “There’s no greater risk for children or teachers should schools reopen.”

Dr. Theresa Flynn, a local pediatrician, shared with the board the negative impact that virtual schooling was having for some of her patients. “A lot of our children are having a hard time” and “not being successful,” she expressed. As Dr. Flynn continued to explain the severities of remote learning to the point of some children contemplated suicide, the board quickly ended the conversation.

With concern she continued, some “children attempted to end their lives where stress and isolation…” [evident finger tapping on the call] and then Dr. Flynn was cut off.

You can see the interruption here:

A Case For Reopening Wake County Schools

  • Germany reopened schools in May, and a study found that schools may not play as big a role in spreading the virus as some had feared. Schools are not “super spreaders.”
  • New CDC numbers show COVID-19 survival rate for 0-19 year olds is 99.997%
  • Based on current CDC data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low
  • COVID-19 case rate of 0.13% among students
  • COVID-19 case rate 0.22% among staff
  • Less than 1 percent of teachers, students infected since schools reopened
  • Since college opened, over 48,000 college kids have tested positive for COVID, 2 have been hospitalized with 0 deaths
  • It’s safer to be in school than out of school. ~ Dr. Danny Benjamin

Most of these studies and research support opening schools and keeping them very clean which we should be doing anyway. School should be open and maintain impeccable cleaning standards. And the best available evidence by the CDC, indicates that “COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.”

A group of researchers, spearheaded by Brown University Professor Emily Oster, have created and made available the most comprehensive database on schools and COVID case rates for students and staff since the pandemic started. Her data—covering almost 200,000 kids across 47 states from the last two weeks of September—showed a COVID-19 case rate of 0.13% among students and 0.24% among staff. That’s a shockingly and wonderfully low number. By comparison, the current overall U.S. case rate is 2.6%, an order of magnitude higher.

Other research has shown that hospitalization and fatality rates for school-age children are also extremely low. People 19 and younger account for only 1.2% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. during the peak of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that of all COVID-19 deaths up to Oct. 10, only 74 were of children under age 15. During the 2019-20 flu season, the CDC estimates, 434 children under 18 died of the flu. Yet we don’t shut down schools over the flu.

Based on the data and guidelines from the CDC, I support our children returning to in-classroom learning in environments utilizing current best practices for mitigation of illness spread. According to the CDC, “More research and evaluation is needed on the implementation of mitigation strategies (e.g., social distancing, masks, hand hygiene) used in schools to determine which strategies are the most effective.”

Virtual schooling is neither adequate nor comparable education. We are failing our children. Wake County parents have openly expressed their frustration with the school board. Parents would rather have their child learn in a classroom than behind a computer screen. It’s time to reopen our Wake County Schools.