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Pediatricians walk back school-reopening stance as WHO gives dire warning

Enlarge / American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Sally Goza (center) attends a meeting with US President Donald Trump, students, teachers, and administrators about how to safely reopen schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic in the East Room at the White House July 07, 2020, in Washington, DC. Getty | Chip Somodevilla

The American Academy of Pediatrics has clarified its stance on school reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the Trump administration repeatedly used the academys previous statement to pressure school systems to resume in-person learning in the fall.

The AAP, in a joint statement with three large education organizations, emphasized that school reopening should be driven by science and safety—“not politics.” It also directly responded to President Trumps threat of withholding funding from schools that did not reopen, calling the move a “misguided approach.”

The point was echoed Monday by Michael Ryan, an infectious disease expert with the World Health Organization, who implored countries not to let school reopening become “yet another political football.”

“The best and safest way to reopen schools is in the context of low community transmission that has been effectively suppressed by a broad-based comprehensive strategy,” Ryan, executive director of WHOs health emergencies program, said in a press briefing.

Though the role children play in the spread of COVID-19 is still poorly understood, Ryan noted that schools are intricately entwined in communities. Countries cant expect to effectively address the pandemic by focusing on school reopening for a few weeks, then move to workplace reopening, and then to outbreaks in healthcare setting, etc., he cautioned. Thats playing “whack-a-mole,” Ryan said. Instead, countries should focus on comprehensive, long-term strategies that address all contexts at once.

“Weve got to chew gum and walk at the same time,” he said. “And we have to make decisions based on the best interests of our children.”

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The Trump administration has intensified its push for schools to reopen in recent days despite dismaying surges in cases in much of the United States. Florida, for instance, reported a record-smashing tally of more than 15,000 cases on Sunday alone, the largest of any single state since the pandemic began.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday gave a dire warning to the US and other countries seeing surges. “Its going to get worse and worse and worse,” he said, unless people start following the basic precautions against disease spread. That is, physical distancing, hand-washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette, and staying at home when sick.

Still, the Trump administration has eyed school reopening as key to reviving the economy and has stepped up pressure on states to have physical classrooms open this fall, before the election. In its rationale, the administration has often cited the AAPs Read More – Source