Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, questioned public health experts at a hearing titled, “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines.” Senator Collins discussed the significant harm school closures are having on students and emphasized the urgent need to reopen schools safely and quickly. She also praised the State of Maine for prioritizing safely getting students back in the classrooms.
Senator Collins directed her question to Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
“Just last week, I talked to the head of Maine CDC, who made the point that children are actually safer in schools, in many cases, than they would be in their community or in their home doing remote learning,” said Senator Collins. “I have tremendous respect for the CDC, but I'm very disappointed in its latest guidance on school reopenings. You have talked about that for some people in public health that it did not appear to be particularly well grounded in the evidence and science. Could you please give us your views on schools reopening?”
“One of the things I've been frustrated by is we've set up what I think has been a false dichotomy. We've set up kids’ education versus teacher safety. And the truth is, we need both and you need both if you're going to do this over the long run. And I believe there is a way to get kids back into school full time now, and certainly into the future, that keeps teachers and staff safe, and kids learning,” responded Dr. Jha.
Dr. Jha listed four benchmarks that he believes should be met to safely reopen schools: 1) universal masking, 2) reasonable ventilation, 3) testing, and 4) prioritizing vaccinations for teachers and school staff.
“I think if we focus on these things, we can keep teachers safe, we can keep kids safe, and we can open schools. And we have the ability to do all of this now, not six months or a year from now,” Dr. Jha continued.
Senator Collins concurred, “I could not agree with you more, and I hope that school officials, teachers, parents, and others will follow the advice that you just gave.”