PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — As we inch closer to the new school year, in-class learning seems less likely to happen in Pierce County.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Director Dr. Anthony Chen said he doesn’t feel safe opening schools for traditional classroom learning.
“When kids go to the school in the fall they get sick and then they come home and get you sick and that’s just the cold and the flu and whatever other viruses are going around. Well, layer on top of that COVID-19 and you see the potential,” said Chen.
Thursday, Pierce County reported 117 new COVID-19 cases. Chen said in-person instruction will cause the numbers to climb even higher.
“If we wait until we see the deaths, it’s too late, there will be nothing we can do at that point,” he said.
Chen’s announcement comes as the CDC lays out its own recommendations for schools to safely reopen.
Recommendations include keeping kids in pods and having teachers stay with the same group. They also encourage social distancing, face masks and hand hygiene.
The CDC said the virus poses a relatively low risk to school-aged kids, but there’s a lot they still don’t know.
“We certainly know that children under 10 do get infected, it’s just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator.
In Pierce County, it’s up to the school district to decide how they want to reopen.
In Tacoma, schools are going fully virtual even though a survey showed more than 80% of families supported the previously planned hybrid model, which would’ve sent kids to class a couple days and kept them at home the rest of the week.
“It’s just no longer possible to pull off that plan and have everyone remain safe,” said Nora Doyle, Public Information Officer at Tacoma Public Schools. “We’re following the guidance of the safety experts, that’s their area of expertise. We need to do what they recognize is safe for students and the community.”
According to the Pierce County Health Department, that means keeping students at home for at least a little while longer.
“If you want to reopen schools back to the way you want them to be, or at least closer, we have to control the virus and right now we’re not controlling the virus,” said Chen.
School starts in Tacoma Sept. 9.
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