CDC director supports in-person learning at schools

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to make an announcement on what’s happening with schools and Phase 3 this week as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to hit record highs.

CDC Director Robert Redfield was in Charlotte Monday to see Mecklenburg County’s response to the virus.

He said it's his view that it's a greater public health threat for children not to be in face-to-face school and that it is important to protect vulnerable populations.

He said millions of children get mental health services and meals at school and that it plays an important role in mandatory reporting for child and sexual abuse.

Redfield reiterated the virus has demonstrated limited ability to cause significant mortality in children.

He said it's important to find a safe path to opening schools and in-person learning.

Redfield also discussed the importance of supporting vulnerable teachers, staff members and children.

“The real vigilance that we need to have is making sure, in the process, that we are protecting the vulnerable, particularly the teachers,” Redfield said. “They may have medical co-morbidities, so that we accommodate them, so they are not at risk.”

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said she is in support of what Redfield said about getting kids back to school in a safe way but also making sure it's done in a way that protects everyone.

She also emphasized the importance of wearing a mask in public in order to get children back in school.

Redfield didn’t provide details about how to safely reopen schools.

Cooper is expected to announce plans for the upcoming school year. He was supposed to announce plans last month but canceled, saying he needed more time. During a news conference, he did seem to indicate the plan would include a combination of in-person and remote learning.

The other two options are in-person classes with safety measures or remote-only learning. North Carolina leaders are still discussing how to reopen schools.

Some local businesses, such as bars and gyms, have been waiting to reopen for months, while other establishments were days away from the big day, only to learn that would be delayed.

[ALSO READ: Hospitalizations top 1,000 as NC reports second-highest single-day case increase]

Cooper’s Phase 2 guidelines and regulations are scheduled to end July 17. He said he would make an announcement on whether he will lift restrictions this week.

Some public health officials are warning that doing things, such as going to a bar and working out at a gym, are among some of the most high-risk activities.

It is not clear when exactly this week Cooper will make his announcement.

“We very much want to have all economy open as soon as we can, but we have to keep public places safe,” Cooper said on Thursday.

This comes as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos said children won’t be in danger of getting COVID-19 if they go back to school this fall.

She is joining President Trump in saying schools should be in-person, not virtual. She also said schools don’t have to follow the CDC’s guidelines for reopening because they are meant to be flexible.