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How effective are COVID-19 school closures? We ask ADPH

Published: Jan. 16, 2022 at 3:20 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Many area schools have moved to virtual learning, as COVID-19 takes a greater toll on Alabama children.

“There are more kids in the hospital now than there were previously with COVID,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Hospitalizations include 71 pediatric patients on Thursday, although some of those cases could be coincidental.

The most recent data shows 16,035 cases in Alabama schools. There were 2,940 the week before.

That is why some schools are entering this week virtual.

Montgomery Public Schools and Lowndes County Schools will be remote all week. While systems like Alexander City Public Schools, Tallassee City Schools and Selma City Schools plan to start the week remote.

Raising the question, how effective are these COVID-19 closures in slowing the spread of the virus?

“You know, the data are really mixed in whether or not – just preventively, proactively – closing schools for children makes any major difference on the spread,” Stubblefield said. “There are some studies that say it might and some that don’t. I think a lot of that data before had been used with flu.”

Meanwhile, some schools are remote because teachers are sick. Virtual learning may be the only option, rather than putting a complete pause on the educational process.

“Our general rule has been for many years, if about 20 percent of the faculty are out, then you cannot keep going, and in some cases now we’re seeing up to 35 percent.” state superintendent Eric Mackey told WSFA 12 News.

During this period of virtual learning, ADPH recommends families limit large gatherings.

“When they go back to school, I would very strongly encourage parents if their school doesn’t have a mask policy to encourage their child to wear a mask, and if their school does have a mask policy, then all the better,” Stubblefield said.

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