‘The data is really clear. They work.’: CDC director says masks are key for reopening of schools

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(CNN) — Getting children back to in-person learning is important for their social well-being — but the key to reopening classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic is masks, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Dr. Robert Redfield, speaking during a Buck Institute webinar, said everyone should work together to find common ground for reopening in a way that is safe and comfortable with people. He said the CDC is presenting options for school systems, and will release some additional resources this week on how to reopen schools.

One of the resources will look at “how to really take advantage of face coverings,” Redfield said. “Because to me, face coverings are the key. If you really look at it, the data is really clear, they work.”

Some students, he said, will need home schooling because of medical issues, but the goal is to have face-to-face interaction five days a week.

The CDC is especially concerned about the well-being of high school students, Redfield said.

“We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from Covid,” he said. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose, that are above excess, than we had as background, than we are seeing deaths from COVID.”

Most US parents say it would be risky to send their children back to school in the fall, according to this week’s installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The poll showed 82% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans say returning to school would be very or moderately risky. Eighty-nine percent of Black parents saw returning to school as a large or moderate risk, compared with 80% of Hispanic parents and 64% of White parents.

More teachers and administrators have voiced their opposition to returning to in-class instruction. And more districts across the country have announced they’ll go virtual, or at least give parents more options.

The nation’s largest school districts unveiled their plans for fall on Monday.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered options for partial in-person instruction. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in order for in-person class to be allowed, a region must be in Phase 4 of reopening, which New York City is not.

In Los Angeles, students will learn at home this fall, the school district said.

More than 3.4 million people have now tested positive for coronavirus — but the true number of infections could be much higher, experts have said, as at least 40% of those who contract the virus show no symptoms, according to a new estimate by the CDC. More than 136,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Covid may approach magnitude of 1918 pandemic, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that Covid-19 is a “pandemic of historic proportions.”

“I think we can’t deny that fact,” Fauci said during a Georgetown University Global Health Initiative webinar. “If you look at the magnitude of the 1918 pandemic where anywhere from 50 to 75 to 100 million people globally died, that was the mother of all pandemics and truly historic. I hope we don’t even approach that with this, but it does have the makings of, the possibility of … approaching that in seriousness.”

Fauci added that he hopes the medicinal interventions that are in trials will one day help prevent such a disaster.

Redfield said in a webinar with the Journal of the American Medical Association that without a biological countermeasure, such as a vaccine, “we’re going to have to go through two or three years of wrestling with this virus.”

He had more immediate worry.

“I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be the probably one of the most difficult times that we experienced in American public health,” he said.

It will be really important to keep the health system from being overstretched, Redfield said.

Startling numbers continue

Across the United States, several states and counties again reported record numbers.

Los Angeles County, where more than 10 million people live, reported its highest record of new cases and hospitalizations in a single day with 4,244 new cases and 2,103 people currently hospitalized, the county’s public health department announced in a news release.

The county also reported 73 deaths, one of the highest number of new fatalities reported in a day.

“Today’s numbers are alarming and unfortunately are the result of many businesses and individuals not adhering to the basic public health requirements of distancing and wearing face coverings,” county health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. Ferrer also reminded people of the importance of washing their hands.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves called for citizens in his state to wear masks, saying Monday on Facebook: “Wearing one is the right thing to do. Don’t mock it. And attacking those who don’t only hardens their resistance. … Our enemy is the virus – NOT EACH OTHER!”

Reeves on Tuesday said hospitalizations are soaring, and a record 805 people are Covid-19 patients at medical facilities.

Texas announced 10,745 cases Tuesday, just the third time it had more than 10,000 new reported cases in a single day.

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