Schools should be the “last” to close as US governors and local officials weigh up further public health restrictions in response to the increase Coronavirus Cases, Dr. Scott Gottlieb said CNBC on Friday.
“We should try to curb all activities that we know are sources of community diffusion long before we close schools,” the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on “Squawk Box.” “So some of these jurisdictions, including New York City, have it backwards where they close schools and leave other things open where the expansion is happening.”
New York City public schools, the largest education system in the country, switched to fully remote learning this week after the percentage of positive coronavirus tests across the city hit 3% – a metric Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio had indicated to end the personal lessons, at least temporarily. However, critics complained that indoor dining is still allowed in restaurants and fitness centers while school buildings have to be closed.
A better approach to public health is to limit activities that are more at risk of transmission than schools, Gottlieb said. He pointed out Recent moves by the Democratic Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, in which personal tuition continues from preschool through eighth grade. There will be limited face-to-face study in high schools while gyms, organized sports, and “bar areas” will be closed.
“High schools are at greater risk. There is more spread in high schools. They are a source of spread in the community because the older children tend to get the virus more easily and they can spread it,” said Gottlieb, who the FDA in the US headed Trump Administration from May 2017 to April 2019. “But we should do everything we can to preserve the schools and especially the elementary schools, where the educational opportunities in the classroom and socialization are more important.”
Schools had become a hot spot with the president in the summer Donald Trump Encouraging districts to reopen to personal learning. Some large public districts, as in San Francisco and Chicagowent completely secluded for the fall. Others, including New York City, took a so-called hybrid approach, in which students were only in the building a few days a week. In-person learning advocates, while changes were made, stressed the need for children to be in the classroom, especially when compared to online courses.
But now, with the U.S. coronavirus outbreak ramping up this fall, with hospitalizations and new daily infections at record levels, governors and local officials face the prospect of imposing restrictions to curb transmission and prevent health systems from being burdened.
In Europe, where various countries have partially imposed bans to curb the increasing cases of coronavirus, schools have been prioritized, Gottlieb said. Germany and France both Bars and restaurants closed while they kept schools open as they tried to contain the spread of Covid-19.
For New York City in particular, Gottlieb acknowledged that there could be risks in bringing teachers to schools as infections rise – possibly because they may be more reliant on public transportation. Gottlieb emphasized, however, “If they controlled their spread better and took stricter measures elsewhere, they could probably keep schools open longer. That should be the last thing we close, especially elementary schools.”