November 24, 2020

Mississippi medical officer says delay school opening or ‘pay the price’

Mississippi’s top medical official said the state’s schools should delay opening because the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the state is too widespread.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was speaking Friday during a Q&A session with leaders of the Mississippi State Medical Association when he was asked about the state’s schools.

“It’s just bad out there,” Dobbs said about the recent surge of COVID-19 coronavirus. “There’s a lot going on and it’s pretty much everywhere.”

Reopening schools is a big concern, Dobbs said.

“It’s given me a lot of anxiety,” he said. “We actually had our first COVID case in a school.”

He was referring to the case in the Corinth School District which opened last Monday and discovered a student who was positive on Friday.

“The young student didn’t pick it up there, but brought it in,” Dobbs said. “Fourteen kids are on quarantine now due to that exposure.

“We’re all kind of learning as we’re going through this and It’s like a really frightening experiment that we’re going through and in some places, I think it will go well and in some places it won’t.

Dobbs said if he were going to predict where the virus’ spread was going in Mississippi, he thinks the state isn’t through the worst of it yet.

“We’re going to sort of flatten out for a little bit and then as all of this college and school gets going, we’re going to take off again,” he said.

Dobbs said he believes schools should consider delaying their opening.

“Unfortunately, nothing can not be political these days. I think sometimes we’re making rash decisions because we’ve planted our flag,” he said. “I thought that maybe it would be the right time to start in August until about a little while ago.

“I do think it’s a good idea to put our toe in the water a little bit, kind of go slowly. Offer as much online as we can. Maybe delay in-person for a little while. Maybe until September,” Dobbs said. “I think it’s a good idea to delay school. There’s nothing magic about August.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is reviewing reopening plans submitted by school districts across the state, but Dobbs said some of the plans he’s seen are ignoring the dangers.

“I’ve seen a summary of all of the plans in the state and a lot of them just say ‘traditional school,’ believe it or not,” Dobbs said. “We’re just going back to school, which to me is wholly unacceptable. It’s crazy. We are going to recommend universal mask usage in schools.”

Dobbs warned that opening schools too soon could be costly.

“It’s impossible to imagine we’re not going to pay the price for cramming kids in schools right now,” he said. “There’s no plausible scenario where it’s just not going to be bad.”