Health experts share their thoughts on students returning to class in Orange County

Dr. Pino says there will be transmission of COVID-19 once schools reopen

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The medical advisory committee tasked to guide the Orange County school board on how to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction met online Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, the board voted to expand the scope of the 11 member committee to include recommendations from top health experts on when to open or close the district.

The meeting began with a presentation by Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health. Dr. Pino highlighted the county has seen 309 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among pediatric patients.

He went on to say the rates appear promising, but went on to say the county is not in the clear when asked if returning to in-person instruction is safe.

“If the question is are you going to see transmission? Yes,” Dr. Pino said.

His presentation was followed by direction to the medical advisory committee from school board chair Teresa Jacobs.

“At the end of the day, if you have a feeling that we are not prepared to open schools or our community than you can offer that recommendation,” Jacobs said.

Reopening schools for in-person instruction has become a hot button issue for parents like Megan Tucker.

“I do worry that they may suggest that it stays like this, and I mean if it does then we are going to deal with it as we have the rest, but hope that doesn’t happen,” Tucker said.

Professor Michael Muszynski with Florida State University discouraged a full reopening and said the risk is too great.

“The way we are going to find out is if we open full blast, we’ll find out. Some parents aren’t willing to experiment with their children to find out,” Professor Muszynski said.

The committee tackled recommendations and changes to the language in the district handbook about exemptions to face coverings, the extent of social distancing, and where temperature screenings should take place.

Dr. Annette Nielsen with Tree House Pediatrics weighed in during the roll call to determine when it would be safe for students to return to school.

“We’re not at 5%. That’s what we need to be at in my opinion to open schools but we do need to have certain children be able to have services,” Dr. Nielsen said.

A consensus was not reached but the committee plans to reconvene on Friday and is expected to give guidance to the board.

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