Health expert: School closures 'shouldn't even be on the table' despite omicron

Dr. Jha: School closures over COVID ‘shouldn’t even be on the table’

Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha on the latest COVID-19 data and Biden’s response to the omicron variant.

Cases of COVID-19 have risen throughout the country amid the spread of the omicron variant, but Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha told “Fox News Sunday” this is no excuse for closing down schools and making children go through remote learning again.

Host Mike Emanuel noted that, according to the Burbio school tracker, more than 800 U.S. schools are now planning on shutting down in January instead of bringing students back in person after winter break. Jha said this is a mistake.

“This really shouldn’t even be on the table, and I’m disappointed to see this is happening,” Jha said, noting that schools now have the tools to remain open. President Biden said Tuesday that children are “as safe in schools as they are any place” if precautions are taken.

President Biden listens to a question as he speaks about the country’s fight against COVID-19 at the White House in Washington, Dec. 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
(Reuters)

“Schools should be absolutely the last place to close and the first place to open,” he stressed, referring to the educational, emotional, social and mental health benefits of in-person learning.

Jha did acknowledge that if the pandemic causes staff shortages that make in-person learning a problem, that would be different, but that “really should be the only context” in which schools close.

While the omicron variant has put the country into a frenzy due to its rapid spread, Jha said that he hopes and expects that, like in South Africa, omicron in the U.S. will “peak quickly and start coming down quickly as well.”

People wait to be vaccinated by a member of the Western Cape Metro EMS at a mobile "Vaxi Taxi," an ambulance converted into a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site in Blackheath in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

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Still, Jha said he does expect the CDC to change the definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated, and that a third shot will likely be needed to have that status.

“That is where the science is leaning,” he said.

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