16 Sep Virtually Back to School
Northeast Florida Medical Society (NEFMS) as a community of African American Physicians and other allied healthcare professionals in the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia region is an organization grounded on principles of building and strengthening the community without partiality. As such, the positioning communicated by the leadership at the NEFMS is as follows: Although Children are generally considered at low risk for the severe morbidity and mortality (as seen in Adults) from COVID-19, additional health and well-being issues that confront them on a daily basis need to be considered and addressed during this pandemic. Among these challenges are abuse, violence, mental health, worsening of other chronic health conditions,
diminished routine immunizations, increased poverty and loss of housing. While returning to “Brick and Mortar” education as noted per Academy of Pediatrics, we must address the health risk it brings to the staff (Teachers, Administrative, Janitorial, Bus Drivers, School Health Personnel and all others involved in the supply chain of returning to Brick and Mortar) as well as the families of the students, especially in the higher risk underserved and minority communities and their MULTIGENERATIONAL households. Suggestions being offered by the Northeast Florida Medical Society (NEFMS):
- Officials must continue Online/Virtual education rather than B&M education until a “COHESIVE PLAN” is developed to reduce the rate of community spread COVID-19.
- Provide Telehealth access to authorized school Physicians during school hours with the possibility of after hour access to health personnel for advice. Engage the positions of the Mayor, City Council, Teachers Union as well as the stance of others.
- Increase communication efforts regarding reporting and education, with an emphasis on leadership by public health and other medical experts that will include consistent and up to date messaging, as well as the development of an organized response to all potential outcomes of schooling and the dynamics of reopening the schools.
- Provide Teachers, Students as well as their Household with all the equipment and supplies needed to effectively utilize online teaching, such as internet access and computers.
- Reduce class sizes and apply proper social distancing even in the classroom setting.
- Ensure adequate air ventilation and air conditioning capabilities, with adequate funding provided towards this endeavor.
- Maintain a school clinic with proper staffing that has fully compliant capabilities as directed by CDC and local Department of Health Guidelines
- All employees (Teachers and other supportive personnel, Janitorial services, Drivers, Administrative, Healthcare Personnel as well) should adhere to CDC recommendations on implementing proper safety precautions to mitigate the risk of exposure.
- Ensure onsite Rapid turnaround testing with adequate and transparent reporting of results and disease epidemiology that include, but are not limited to risk status, race, demographics, and geography.
- Implement proper mechanisms to screen for symptoms daily, prepare to send those with potentially concerning symptoms home, and have a contingency plan for the event that students or employees become ill.
Our strategic plan as we embark upon this school year will be critical to our community for attenuating the spread of what appears to be an unfortunately uncontained pandemic despite our best intentions. As we insightfully navigate these newly presented challenges, we can successfully protect our community, especially the most vulnerable population, and we will empower our children towards educational growth in an environment that does not put those in service to the schools, and their families at risk.
NEFMS Executive Committee
Barry P Wright, MD, President