WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — One of the nation’s top public health officials said going back to the classroom for students across the country depends on each person’s actions and is a school-by-school decision.
“Asymptomatic spread is real, we have to protect one another going into the Fall and we have to ensure we get cases down in these communities,” Dr. Deborah Birx said in an exclusive interview with NewsNation.
Dr. Birx, a global health expert and White House-appointed Coronavirus response coordinator, said the decision to go back to the classroom should be a very local decision.
“It matters what’s happening in the community and I think that’s why it was clear that local school districts should make that decision based on their local data,” she said.
Wearing masks, physically distancing and stopping parties will all help to lower community spread and thus lead to conditions to open in-person learning, according to Dr. Birx.
The public health expert, who is known to bring data and charts to the White House Press Briefing room, said that county-by-county information will be vital to determining when it is safe for students to return.
“Now New York and the New York City area had been in a very good place and what we have to really assure over these next few weeks, it won’t be because of the schools went back, it will be because of this early data coming out of the Bronx and King County that they may have increased community spread again,” she said.
Dr. Birx has said lessons learned from nursing homes and prisons have helped to determine that local data on community spread is vital to determining what to do about schools.
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“Everybody in the community needs to work together to stop the spread,” she said.
It’s not just the classroom. Many parents and high school athletes want to know what’s next for sports. As NewsNation reported on Tuesday, some parents have turned to protests and even legal action over high school football.
According to a map from the National Federation of State High School Associations, six states have no Fall competition, 14 have no changes and 31 have modified seasons.
Dr. Birx said she has been traveling across the country since the end of June and discussing Fall sports with college and high school athletic leaders. She said it’s not just teachers who should be thanked during the pandemic.
“There have been facility managers and staff rearranging these classrooms and working every day at the universities to really ensure that they’re taking the best CDC guidance and applying it in the classroom and in the sports programs to really not only protect the students but also protect the coaches and staff,” she said.
Birx said it’s not just the precautions related to gameplay, but even the details of concessions and bathrooms.
The full interview will air Wednesday at 9/8 p.m. (CT) on WGN America.