reopening schools

San Diego County Health Officials Working to Track Potential COVID-19 School Exposures

NBC Universal, Inc.

Many of San Diego County's school districts have reopened to some students on-campus, and all but two have plans to reopen in the coming weeks.

Now, county officials are trying to trace any COVID-19 potential exposures on-campus.

On Wednesday, Eric McDonald, the county's chief epidemiologist, said during the county briefing that students aged 19 and younger are seeing a climb in COVID-19 cases. While county leaders said there is no single event that's pushing this rise, they don't want people to have their guard down.

"Like all parents, I want every child to be back in class and teachers want the same thing," parent Heather Dugdale told NBC 7 on Thursday. "What I'm most worried about right now is: We're going too much too fast."

Other parents disagree and want full school reopenings to happen sooner. NBC 7 has reported on several protests by parents with children in the San Diego Unified School District calling for schools to allow students to return on-campus.

Dr. Paul Schalch Lepe, whose expertise is focused on the ears, nose and throat, said it is rare for children to be infected with critical cases of COVID-19 but that they are just as susceptible and can spread the virus.

"More time, more presence, will mean more exposure, and more exposure and well, you know, without question, [that] leads to more infections," Schalch Lepe said.

The county is encouraging students and staff to follow safety precautions, such as wearing masks and physically distancing. That way, risks can be significantly lowered.

"How much can you control what high-schoolers will do during and after school as opposed to younger kids that maybe follow directions a bit more closely?" Schalch Lepe said.

There are also concerns about long-term coronavirus effects. Schalch Lepe said that, while they are rarer for children, they can still occur.

"It's still somewhat of a gamble to reopen and say, 'Let's expose people,' " he said. "Most will be fine, but there will be some of those unfortunate cases as well."

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