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One month into school: What's gone right and what needs work

UNMC expert weighs in
Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 07, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — It may be hard to believe, but most local schools have already been in session for one month. 3 News Now reporter Ruta Ulcinaite has been closely following different school district's plans on reopening and case numbers and has more on what's been going right and what still needs work.

"It certainly could be worse, but could be better," UNMC infectious diseases physician James Lawler said.

Dr. Lawler and his team of medical experts have been helping schools with the return. He says there are things that are definitely helping and things that still need some work.

Last Thursday, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour stated that there were around 70 confirmed cases in K-12 students in Douglas County and 55 staff. She says the responsibility of containing cases falls on the schools themselves and also parents.

"Schools have really tried to do the best they can and they have had good plans in place. But they need to rely on parents too to do the right thing," Dr. Pour said.

Dr. Lawler says what's encouraging to see is schools drastically rearranging flow and desks to help with social distancing. Limiting capacity and masking has also helped. But not every school district has taken on these safety protocols.

"Certainly a number of schools have attempted to go back with a full compliment and full density of students. In many of the schools that are larger and have high concentration of students per classroom, that's where we've seen a number of cases early on," he said.

What hasn't worked so well is too crowded schools, and sports and activities in larger crowds.

"Sporting events are among those things that will contribute to increased case numbers," Dr. Lawler said.

Medical professionals have more hope for month two. But things may get complicated with flu season rolling around.

"I think we come into the challenge of the weather getting colder so people spending more time indoors together, typically less outdoors," Dr. Lawler said.

Since we know that community transmission directly affects schools, it's important for the community to continue using safe practices, so schools can continue on in month two, three and beyond.