As some parents and students look forward to schools reopening for in-person instruction, one expert has a word of caution.
“I think we need to be guarded,” said Doctor Omid Bakhtar, a Sharp Hospital affiliated physician who is Medical Director of Sharp's Outreach Services Pathology Laboratory. He is also co-chair of the county’s task force on coronavirus testing.
As far as setting dates to reopen schools, Dr. Bakhtar said, “Whatever decision we make today I think the best caution is the ability to be able to pivot later.”
The caution is due to the increase of the U.K. variant, also known as the B117 variant.
“This will be the most prevalent in San Diego, likely by the end of March," he said.
Given the increase, Dr. Bakhtar said scientists know B117 can be easily transmitted, but he said it is not clear at this point if the variant makes people sicker and causes more deaths than other COVID variants that have caused the majority of infections over the last nine months.
More data will be forthcoming and Dr. Bakhtar said people need to be open minded.
“I think we should be willing to learn from the data that we collect over the course of the next few weeks to a month and I think we’re going to have a lot more information ahead of us that will allow us to make the best decision when that time comes around," he said.
Dr. Bakhtar said the vaccines we have now are unquestionably beneficial against the B117 variant. Work is being done to investigate how the vaccine works with the other variants of concern.
In the meantime, when it comes to safety precautions, Dr. Bakhtar says the burden of responsibility is on the community.
“We not only need to continue doing the same thing, we have to continue doing the same thing better than what we were doing before," he said.