Closing schools ‘greater public health risk’ than reopening, says top U.S. health official

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Keeping schools closed in the coming academic year is a greater risk to children’s health than reopening them, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

Redfield said the guidelines the CDC has given on operating schools during the pandemic are designed to facilitate their reopening, and he would be “disappointed” if they were used as a rationale to keep them closed.

“I cannot overstate how important I think it is now to get our schools in this nation reopened,” Redfield said at The Hill’s Health Reimagined virtual summit. “The reason I push it is that I truly believe it’s for the public health benefit of these kids.”

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump blasted the CDC guidelines for schools to reopen as “impractical” and “expensive.” Trump has called on schools to reopen, but there is no federal plan to coordinate the effort.

Redfield said on Thursday that none of the CDC’s guidance on school reopening is inherently too costly for schools to handle.

He said he does not want schools to go “overboard” by failing to recognize that the virus is “relatively benign” for young people.

U.S. schools are scrambling to prepare for the upcoming academic year as the pandemic surges nationwide, topping 3 million confirmed cases.

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