Health expert discusses how schools should respond to COVID-19 cases

Health expert discusses how schools should respond to COVID-19 cases

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A representative from Collierville Schools says one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19 and will be self-quarantining.

Schools across the Mid-South are just weeks away from beginning classes either in-person, online or in a hybrid model.

WMC Action News 5 spoke to a local health expert about how schools should respond when news of a COVID-19 case breaks.

Infectious disease specialist for Baptist Memorial Hospital, Dr. Steve Threlkeld says COVID-19 cases at local schools this year will not be unusual.

“I think we’re going to definitely see that. If you look at the CDC guidance for parents and schools, it’s very nebulous. There’s a lot of disclaimers, it’s not very specific because very frankly, it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Collierville Schools says the employee and all appropriate individuals are self-quarantining for 14 days.

Collierville is planning to return to class Aug. 17 with a choice between virtual learning or a hybrid model combining virtual and in-classroom learning.

Each school district has a different plan, with most districts offering options for virtual learning.

Dr. Threlkeld says every district and even every school, is different in how they should uniquely plan to respond to COVID-19 cases in schools.

“Some people will have better geography. They will have more buildings available, easier to quarantine people, so I think flexibility will in fact be necessary,” said Threlkeld.

Earlier in the week, parents in Collierville protested, demanding the school district offer traditional five days a week of classroom learning after the district changed to only offering virtual or hybrid options a little over a week ago.

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“We need a five-day option because people are really struggling in Collierville, Tennessee,” said Brett Buckhold, father of four.

“There’s a lot of research to back up that if kids don’t go to school five days a week that the achievement gaps become wider, that the children suffers socially, as well as educationally,” said Anne Calderwood, mother of two.

Dr. Threlkeld says it will be important for some students to return to in-classroom learning for sociological reasons such as food insecurity.

His advice for school administrators is to prepare and expect a possible widespread of COVID-19 during this unprecedented school year.

“The important thing is to have that plan. And that’s a harder plan to develop and it’s one that I think is going to be key. Plans for that will be the sort of thing that keeps schools from just throwing up their hands and closing in frustration and sort of panic,” said Threlkeld.

On July 22, three football players for Collierville High School also tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Threlkeld says health experts are hopeful that a rapid response COVID-19 test can be available soon and for a relatively low cost.

If that does happen, Dr. Threlkeld says that would be a game changer for schools.

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