Tenn. health commissioner, Memphis doctor team recommend in-person learning

Debate over in-person learning continues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A critical debate rages on about whether to open up schools for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee commissioner of health weighed in as important information was revealed by doctors during a local COVID-19 digital symposium.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee Commissioner of Health, spoke at the virtual Memphis Rotary meeting Tuesday and put her full support behind trying to safely open schools with students in the classroom.

Tennessee coronavirus update -- July 28

“I believe, strongly believe, that having children back in the classroom is the most ideal way to holistically treat the child,” said Piercey.

Piercey says younger people are less susceptible to severe effects of COVID-19 and are less likely to spread the disease.

She believes many students rely on food, mental health services and protection from abuse that some students can only receive by being in school.

“All children, my children, your children, all of them get additional benefit other than just education at school,” said Piercey.

A similar tone was presented by Dr. Jason Yuan, a Division Chief of Outpatient Pediatrics at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, part of a team of doctors who presented their findings during a COVID-19 symposium hosted by UTHSC.

Dr. Jason Yuan, Division Chief of Outpatient Pediatrics at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, says Le Bonheur treated three times as many children with adverse childhood experiences in May 2020 versus May 2019, a possible result of more time spent at home in unsafe conditions.

“We’re talking about things like abuse, neglect and household distinction,” said Yuan. “Living with someone who may be experiencing mental health issues, who may have substance abuse problems.”

While both recommend in classroom learning, Yuan and Piercey agree there’s not a one size fits all for reopening schools and parents deserve to choose what’s best for their child.

“I think the most important thing is that parents are able to do what they feel is the best thing for their child,” said Piercey.

“There’s going to be risk either way, and it’s weighing the risk and benefits at each step,” said Yuan.

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