State epidemiologist cites concerns as schools reopen

State epidemiologist cites concerns as schools reopen

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Parents and teachers across Mississippi have mixed feelings as students head back to school.

While many are in support of sending their children back to the classrooms, others are opting to do virtual learning, citing the high number of cases in Mississippi.

WLOX talked with State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers on Wednesday, who said he has some concerns like most do, but noted that the spread of the virus is something we can all help prevent.

“When you get a big group of people together, you’re going to identify cases within them and the more cases that you identify in teachers or students, you know, that raises the risk of transmission within the school setting.”

Dr. Byers said communities need to work together collectively to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We cannot continue to have this kind of stress maintained on our healthcare capacity successfully,” he said. “We need to do everything that we can collectively to reduce the number of cases in that state that will result in reductions in the number of hospitalized patients.”

Part of that effort is wearing masks, as well as isolating and quarantining if you know if you have the virus or if you have been in contact with someone who has it.

“We know that individuals, especially early in their infection, can easily transmit,” said Byers. “So the longer and faster we have them isolated at home and removed from individuals that they can infect, the better. The sooner that we have those individuals who have been in contact with them quarantined at home, the better. That is another tool for how we interrupt transmission.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics said Wednesday that they support the reopening of schools but only under strict guidelines.

The Mississippi chapter of the AAP advised Governor Reeves to issue a mandatory mask mandate, which he did. The group also stresses the importance of hand washing and social distancing.

School age children don’t appear to be as vulnerable to the virus and doctors think significant spread in schools can be controlled.

“Children are not likely to be what we call super spreaders. Children are more likely to contract coronavirus from their family members,” said pediatrician Dr. John Gaudet. “They are generally not the ones transmitting it. Children are more likely to get coronavirus from a family member than to get it at school and come home and give it to a family member.”

Medical experts say children younger than 11 are less likely to get and spread COVID 19.

Watch the extended interview with Dr. Byers from his segment on the 4 o’clock show on Wednesday below:

PART ONE: Dr. Paul Byers on COVID-19 in Mississippi
PART TWO: Dr. Paul Byers further discusses COVID-19 in Mississippi

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