Local public health officials in New York have a lesson for schools as they begin a reopening process following a year of pandemic-induced uncertainty: COVID-19 remains a risk, and do not let your guard down.
The County Health Officials of New York, a group that represents public health leaders on the local government level, released a point-by-point list of issues facing school reopening. At the top: "COVID-19 has not gone away."
Schools in New York are moving to broad reopening likely by the fall after many districts have been operating on a hybrid model of some students coming into the classroom and others learning remotely.
But the arrangement has exposed vulnerabilities for some children and families who have struggled with remote learning. Now, as the Department of Health has backed guidelines for a full reopening of schools and as more people are vaccinated daily, some school officials are optimistic their districts can return to some semblance of normal by the fall.
Nevertheless, precautions will remain in place.
The county health officials will be serving in an advisory role for schools, with guidance from the state Department of Health taking precedence. And, above all else, public health officials are urging families to remain cautious. That includes what have been staples of the last year: mask wearing and social distancing.
"To protect our children and families, it remains essential to act with an abundance of caution to prevent localized outbreaks, especially in counties where there is a very high infection rate," the group said. "Reason must prevail if we are to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. As public servants, County Health Officials have put their lives on the line during the pandemic to protect the health of our community members so we must do all we can to support and protect that intent."