MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The number of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the Mid-South but in some places, the number is increasing at a more rapid pace.
More than 100,000 students are expected to enroll in Shelby County’s 142 schools this upcoming year, even as classes begin virtually.
Shelby County is home to the largest school district in Tennessee and a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
“The reality is that we have to be concerned about every single child in Shelby County,” said Miska Clay Bibbs.
Bibbs is the Shelby County School Board Chair and she represents District 7, which includes the zip code 38118.
Located in the southern portion of the county, 38118 has been a hot spot for months with more coronavirus cases than any other zip code.
There are 18 schools within its boundaries.
“The reality of it is that I’m concerned about every single zip code in Shelby County Schools,” said Bibbs.
Though Shelby County schools will begin classes virtually, we wanted to know if children living in hot spots are more at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Certainly the children living in the households in those communities are at higher risk,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “If children are living at home with parents who are going to work, especially in these higher risk communities, some of those children will contract COVID-19 and some of those children will go to school. It’s not a question of if, it’s when there will be a child who has COVID in a school. The question is whether we can keep that child from spreading it to other children.”
Municipal school districts including Germantown, Bartlett, Collierville, and Millington are all holding in-person classes in some format.
Data for each of those zip codes shows lower numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Each back to school plan identifies mask wearing and social distancing as ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Kids are very adaptable,” said Dr. Jennifer Snow, Director of Baptist Hospital’s Pediatric ICU. “I don’t think we give them enough credit. They can adapt to those situations and be compliant with wearing masks and social distancing and hand hygiene, as long as it’s enforced on a continuous basis.”
Dr. Snow also says data shows younger children transmitting the disease less frequently than adults, but they are still carriers and can still pass it on to others.
“Children in older grades seem to have a similar transmission rate to adults, which is concerning as you’re going back to school,” said Dr. Snow.
Both doctors said parents should speak with their children about social distancing and mask-wearing.
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for re-opening schools with certain policies in place.
You can find a link to that report here.