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The Bexar County Medical Society, which represents more than 5,000 physicians and medical students in the area, said in a statement Wednesday that schools should not reopen for face-to-face instruction until the COVID-19 positivity rate drops below five percent for at least 14 consecutive days.
The statement comes nearly a week after the Metropolitan Health District issued an order last Friday, requiring public schools to keep students out of classrooms until Labor Day. The Texas Education Agency also said on Friday it would allow school districts to postpone opening classrooms for up to eight weeks after they begin their fall semester, which would push the start of in-person instruction into October for most.
The Bexar County Medical Society said in the statement that having in-person instructions within the “next few weeks” is not recommended by their COVID-19 task force. The society said schools could possibly reopen for- face-to-face learning when there is a decline in new coronavirus cases for 14 consecutive days in the county, as measured by a seven-day rolling average.
“Public health officials have banned (to the extent permitted by law) large indoor group settings and interactions. Yet, at the same time, Texas public schools are being told to open for in-person classroom instructions within the next few weeks,” the society wrote in its statement.
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As of Wednesday, Bexar County’s positivity rate, which is the rate of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, was over 18 percent with a total of 33,555 coronavirus cases reported since the start of the pandemic. Over the past six weeks, the San Antonio community has experienced a dramatic rise in the cases, growing from four percent to 22 percent, the Bexar County Medical Society reports.
The society also noted the community and close contact transmission of the virus has also increased to 90 percent, adding that the rise in cases has caused a strain on local hospitals and healthcare professionals.
As of Wednesday, there are 1,113 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, leaving 12 percent of staffed hospital beds available in the city. On average, 36 percent of hospitalized pediatric cases are infants up to 2 years old, according to local officials. Five percent of those hospitalized with the virus are 19 or younger.
“As physicians, we understand the importance of a safe, structured learning environment for children. In fact, as parents, we personally understand the challenges that distance learning presents for everyone involved,” the society said. “… However, until safer conditions are achieved, it will be critical for the health of the entire community that schools continue online, distance instruction.”
Priscilla Aguirre is a general assignment reporter for MySA.com | email@example.com | @CillaAguirre