The Chief Medical Officers and doctors from Intermountain Healthcare, HCA MountainStar Health, University of Utah Health, and Steward Health held a virtual news conference on Friday to urge the governor to institute a statewide mask mandate as more and more people are testing positive for COVID-19 in Utah.
The subject turned to education, with some of the doctors being asked for their opinion about schools potentially opening back up in August.
The doctors had mixed feelings about it.
Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Eddie Stenehjem is concerned about sending children back to school during a pandemic that could be gaining steam.
“Until we see declining case counts and a really good control of this pandemic, I think it’s going to be really hard for us to send our children back to school full time in a safe and effective manner,” Stenehjem said.
Steward Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arlen Jarrett, on the other hand, was more open to the idea, but still has some concerns.
“We know that children can get and spread this disease. We also know that, in general, they’re not as at-risk for catching or dying from the disease as older people are. That doesn’t mean they can’t bring it home and spread it. So, we have to go into this very thoughtfully,” Jarrett said.
He also believes Utah needs to balance the need to stay safe with children’s educational attainment, as the switch to online learning last semester was not successful for every student.
“What I am concerned about, along with transmission and spread of disease, I’m concerned about the generation of children who need to be educated. So, clearly, we have to weigh a decision very carefully about what it’s doing to their development,” Jarrett said.
The doctors also urged state leaders to look at the science and make decisions about schools reopening based on the data.
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