LANSING, Mich. – Weeks before school resumes, Michigan physicians today called on the State Legislature and the Trump Administration to provide resources and support to Michigan schools so students, teachers and staff are safer during a pandemic that has killed more than 162,000 Americans. The physicians urged increased funding to pay for more testing, contact tracing, support for students and families who must isolate, and sufficient protective equipment and sanitizing supplies in schools.
Republicans in Michigan’s Legislature have promoted a controversial plan that threatens to cut funding for schools that don’t require students to attend in-person classes. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to cut federal funds, mostly for low-income students and special education, to schools that don’t require face-to-face learning.
“Physicians and public health experts all agree that students should continue to learn, in person if possible, yet we’re deeply concerned that some politicians have failed to think through the medical and scientific impact of reopening schools without giving those schools the resources they need to keep students, teachers and staff safer during a deadly pandemic,” said Dr. Rob Davidson, MD, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare and an emergency physician in West Michigan. “Michigan is not out of the woods, and COVID-19 has taught us that outbreaks can happen any time. The same politicians who pushed states to prematurely reopen their economies are now pushing children back into classrooms without appropriate safeguards. In the middle of the deadliest global pandemic in 100 years, policymakers should give students, schools and local communities more support, not empty political rhetoric that’s disconnected from science and evidence.”
The Michigan Senate is expected to take up legislation regarding schools reopening on Saturday.
“As physicians, we see first-hand how COVID-19 can harm and even kill people, so we have a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that students, teachers, and support staff are safer when they go back to school during a pandemic that has devastated countless lives in seven months,” said Dr. Farhan Bhatti, MD, a family physician, school board member in Lansing, and MI State Lead of the Committee to Protect Medicare. “Science tells us that indoor locations where large groups of people congregate can become superspreader sites. Science tells us that children are not immune to COVID-19. Science tells us that people should socially distance and stay at home in communities with high rates of infections. Science is warning us that indoor venues such as schools with reduced ventilation, active children, and a significant number of adults with high-risk medical conditions will require stringent safety measures to reduce the risk of infections and transmission — especially if they’re in COVID-19 hotspots. We shouldn’t be gambling with people’s lives.”
The Republican proposal mandates in-person learning for students in grades K through 5. While research on children and COVID-19 is still preliminary, recent studies indicate children can transmit the coronavirus as much as adults and their viral load is as high. Meanwhile, Michigan is seeing COVID-19 surges among teens and at least one outbreak at a camp for children. In Georgia, more than 800 people at a school have been quarantined after dozens of students and staff tested positive one week into the school year, and another switched from in-person to virtual learning after nine students tested positive. In Florida, COVID-19 cases in children have gone up 137 percent.
“The Legislature’s one-size-fits-all proposal ignores local conditions and unfairly penalizes schools for taking science-based precautions to keep students and staff safer when infection positivity rates are high, and that simply flies in the face of science and the evidence,” said Dr. Harshini (Hershey) Jayasuriya, MD FAAFP, a family physician in Holt. “While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has done the hard work and made the tough calls to require masks and implement stay-at-home orders, the Legislature hasn’t given local school districts what they need to help students learn safely and effectively, whether in-person or through virtual classrooms. Instead of threatening to cut funding and further endanger students and school staff, the Michigan Legislature and the Trump Administration should provide local districts and communities with everything they need to detect COVID-19 quickly and shut down outbreaks before they begin.”
About the Committee to Protect Medicare
The Committee to Protect Medicare is an advocacy organization made up of frontline doctors engaging in direct advocacy and communications in support of a stronger healthcare system in America. To learn more: https://committeetoprotect.org/
NOTE: The physicians below are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 13, 2020
Az Ibrahim, 616-227-1940, firstname.lastname@example.org