Health officials reassures return to in-person learning is safe amid spike in coronavirus cases


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Health reports of Friday’s 622 COVID-19 cases, 25 percent of those were among children.

Officials say while there are some risks in returning to in-person learning, bringing students back to school is important.

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“There is risk in everything,” said Dr. Libby Char, Hawaii Department of Health health director. “but I think we have to be cognizant that there is a cost to not having children in school and having them fall further behind in learning and continued social isolation

The Department of Education says, school is still scheduled to reopen on Tuesday. However, the case count was alarming for some parents like Seilee Yahiku, mother of two young children heading back to campus next week.

“My heart stopped when I heard the number today, especially now that we know kids are more affected by this strain,” said Seilee Yahiku. “I’ve been really been looking forward to them starting school again.”

Health officials are reassuring parents that in-person learning will be safe. Among steps schools are taking include all students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors. Also, proper ventilation will be key in classrooms and proper handwashing will be a must.

“If you’re sick, stay home. Even if you think its allergies or the sniffles, stay home,” said Dr. Char.

Dr. Char did not that despite all of the safety measures put in place, bringing back 180,000 students to campus will come with an expected uptick in cases.

“There will be some people that have COVID and show up, so we will see some rises,” Dr. Char said. “We’re trying to structure it so that it’ll minimize the amount of spread in the setting.”

Schools are also encouraged to consider screen testing those who are not fully vaccinated, especially for extracurricular activities like sports and band.

“We have school-based health centers in all of the local schools where we’re offering back to school vaccinations,” said Jacob Schafer, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center director of infection control. “and of course testing, because a lot of people, especially those under 12, have been unable to get vaccinated so far, so are vigorously testing the school kids.”

While numbers are concerning, some parents are still looking forward to getting their keiki back in the classroom.

The DOE says they’ll continue to monitor the situation and are in contact with health officials to ensure the safety of staff and students.

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