State health officer backs recommendations for Jefferson Co. schools

State health officer on virtual learning

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama’s state health officer is backing Jefferson County’s Health Department in recommending middle and high schools go virtual and not open classrooms for the first nine weeks. Dr. Scott Harris said Dr. Mark Wilson made the right calls.

Dr. Harris is not ready to make the same recommendation statewide just yet, but he said he is in continuous talks with a lot of school systems. He believes schools should offer parents a choice of learning with in class or remote learning.

There is not an order for all Jefferson County middle and high schools to open up with virtual classes - it’s currently just a recommendation.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is concerned with putting hundreds of students, teachers, and staff into a building.

“If you are going to have hundreds of people together, it needs to be safe manner. We are not picking on schools, that includes hundreds of people getting together under any type of circumstance,” Dr. Harris said.

Harris agrees with various studies and Governor Ivey that students get a better education with face to face in class learning.

“There are a lot of good individual educational reasons to have kids together, but they get their nutrition from the school. Their healthcare from the schools,” said Dr. Harris.

If a school decides to open with classroom learning then Dr. Harris says that school needs to have in place various steps to protect students and lower the chances of spreading COVID-19, even during athletic events.

“The best way to have athletics proceed as it’s planned is to make sure you don’t have large outbreaks in your community and the way you do that is have rules around social distancing, face coverings, washing your hands, hygiene and so on,” Harris said.

Dr. Harris said the health department is working with schools. He expects even more guidance will be provided to the schools soon.

The CDC has recommended returning to the classroom in states with confirmed positive cases at 5% or below. The problem is Alabama is currently between 16 and 17%.

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