SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — With the 2020-21 school year rapidly approaching, a Shreveport pediatric specialist is making it very clear that “it’s up to us” to reduce spread of the coronavirus before returning to the classroom.
Dr. Joseph Bocchini, whose focus is on pediatric infectious diseases with Willis-Knighton Health System, spoke with KSLA News 12′s Christian Piekos about what parents should really understand before sending their children back to school.
The Louisiana Department of Health reports that the state has had 1,125 new coronavirus cases since Monday, the lowest case count since early July. Hospitalizations also have declined.
“I think the main concern for me is getting this virus under control before the school year starts,” Bocchini stated. “We still have three plus weeks to try and get better control of this virus.”
The doctor believes it is paramount for citizens to continue wearing face masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.
This vital guidance comes as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced during a news conference Tuesday that the state ranked number one COVID-19 cases per capita in the United States.
“I think it’s certainly understandable to have some degree of apprehension,” Bocchini said.
“We’ve certainly not learned everything about this virus. And we really don’t have a lot of experience with children in school during the circulation of this virus.”
Even as school districts throughout the ArkLaTex lay out their plans to keep students and faculty members safe, some parents remain on edge about how protected their child will be.
“I think what we need to be thinking about is what’s in the best interest of children and what is needed to reduce the likelihood a child will become infected by going back to school,” Bocchini said.
School districts have given parents the option of total virtual learning for their kids, including a hybrid model, which allows for split time at home and in the classroom. Of course, some districts will welcome children back full time.
Regardless, school districts everywhere are stressing the importance of being cognizant of symptoms daily, wearing masks and minimizing physical contact with others.
“The things schools have done to enable students to be in the classroom in a safer environment ... doing things to minimize the kind of contact that might occur ... will all help reduce the likelihood of a child getting exposed,” Bocchini said.
With so many parents acutely aware of students’ well-being, some also are questioning when the appropriate time is to seek medical attention if a child is presenting symptoms similar to COVID-19.
Bocchini believes it’s situational.
“I think a parent has to look at what’s being done and then the parents have to consider, ‘Does my child have any risk factors that would increase the likelihood that they might have a severe case of COVID,” Bocchini explained.
“If there’s a high degree of spread within the community, I might want that child who has a fever with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms to be seen by their pediatrician or primary care physician.”
KSLA News 12 also asked Bocchini whether he would send his children back to the classroom right now, given the serious nature of the coronavirus in Louisiana.
“I think I would like to see us do better over the next few weeks in reducing the spread of the virus within the community. I would like to see us reach a point where we see significant drop in hospitalizations and the number of positive cases,” Bocchini responded.
“Then I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about having children go to school.”
Bocchini also wants parents to help ease anxious students’ fears by reminding them of the importance of wearing a mask, keeping a solid distance from others and the serious safety measures being taken by schools each day to keep them safe.