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Pediatric doctors say delaying the school year 'isn't enough'

The doctors recommend any school within a county that has a coronavirus infection rate above 5 percent to stay closed.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida pediatric doctors are closely monitoring the state's COVID-19 data.

Even though it seems like daily reported case numbers may have started to level out, deaths continue to rise. And the rate of infection is still high in almost all of Florida's counties.

"Let's do start schools, but let's not send kids to school until the infection rate is lower," Dr. David Paul Robinson said.

Robinson is the President of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to delay any in-person learning.

"It was because of the high levels of infection of COVID. Which he did, I mean he at least said it was okay to start later, which we were happy about," Robinson said.

Speaking at a round table in Pinellas County on Wednesday, the governor said reopening schools would be safe.

"I would absolutely have my kids in school. I think it's safe to do so. There's a lot of anxiety. Having choices I think would lower anxiety," DeSantis said.

He believes parents should have choices. The FCAAP agrees but still doesn't think any schools in a COVID-19 hot spot should reopen.

"If it needs to be 5 percent for me to go to say Home Depot or to a restaurant where I might be for an hour or two, it sure as heck needs to be 5 percent for me to send my kids to school for eight hours," Robinson said.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties made the decision to keep school doors closed. They will start all students virtually in August. The counties' infection rates have ranged anywhere from 12-19 percent over the last week.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
COVID-19 infection rates in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties

In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the rates fluctuate anywhere from 4-13 percent.

"So I don't think there's any universe in which kids can go back to school there and stay safe," Robinson said.

He thinks schools should start online in most of Florida's counties. If buildings do reopen he says:

- All students, teachers, and staff members should be screened for symptoms daily

- All children and teachers should be six feet apart in classrooms

- Start and end times for the school day should be staggered 

- Vaccinations for all students should be up to date and Flu shots should be required

"As a pediatrician, every time my kids got sick. I got sick even though I never got sick seeing my patients. So, they are super spreaders. I don't know why that would be different with COVID-19. I think time will tell us," Robinson said. 

FCAAP does have a list of recommendations for reopening schools safely. You can find them here. You can also find reopening recommendations from the CDC here.

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