Despite the Omaha area’s recent rise in coronavirus cases, most Omaha area school districts are planning on holding in-person classes. This is not safe. My children are enrolled in the Bellevue Public Schools, which are fully reopening, and what’s worse, fully reopening without adequate safety precautions.
I am no public health expert, but we do have local experts on this topic at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) who wrote and published a guide, “COVID-19 Back to School Playbook,” which is available online. Dr. John Lowe, the lead author, told me that he has briefed 20 school districts on the report, including BPS. Despite these briefings, districts seem to be ignoring much of the guidance.
The authors studied school openings both around the world and here in the U.S., concluding that if communities have high enough infection rates, schools should not reopen because spread within schools is inevitable. They determined that more than 50 cases per million per day is too high for successful reopening. According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, as of Tuesday, Sarpy County was averaging 172 cases per million per day — more than three times that level.
Based on these infection rates, any school district in Douglas or Sarpy County holding in-person rather than online classes is sacrificing peoples’ health and lives. However, in the Bellevue Public Schools, that is just the beginning of the problem.