Dr. Saag says without testing, K-12 case numbers aren’t accurate

Reaction to in-person learning

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Most grade schools in the state are shifting to allowing in-person learning, even though there is relatively little data on how many students have contracted COVID-19.

The ADPH dashboard lists fewer than 9,000 cases for ages 5 to 17, so kindergarten to junior year... but that might not be accurate.

After a digital detour resuming school for the fall semester, many schools have, or will be opening their doors to welcome students back.

But experts say everyone needs to be extremely careful. “We have no idea how many students, K-12 are really infected, why? Because we are not doing sentinel testing there,” said Dr. Michael Saag of UAB.

With no randomized testing, Dr. Saag explains contagious students might be slipping under the radar, and there’s no contact tracing to determine who they’ve been in contact with, either.

“For someone to say we know the caseload is low among elementary and high school students, that just isn’t true,” said Dr. Saag.

As thousands of more students statewide get ready to go back to class, Dr. Saag says it’s simply too soon.

“To make policy decisions without more information, and just open doors and go right back as if it were January 2020, I just don’t think is the right policy,” he said.

He advocates for sentinel testing at the K-12 level to gather more data.

He refers to a medical acronym WNL, which means within normal limits... and says what it really means is, we never looked.

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