Pediatrician: ‘Deaths will most likely occur due to school reopening’

Former director of Duval County Health Department pens open letter to community

A pediatrician at UF Health Jacksonville who is also a former director of the Duval County Health Department sent an open letter Friday expressing his concerns about the potential impact reopening schools too soon could have on children and their parents.

“There will be spread of disease secondary to the school opening. Some children will be infected and hospitalized. Increased numbers of adults will follow the same path. Deaths will most likely occur due to school reopening,” Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen wrote. “We only have one chance to get this right.”

Goldhagen, who said he wrote the letter independent of his position with UF Health, urged the Duval County Public Schools to delay opening ”until all public health systems are in place and then moving to a hybrid model that evolves to a fully opened system, is a viable approach.”

Read Dr. Goldhagen’s open letter: Reopening Duval County Public Schools Must Meet Public Health Safety Criteria

Duval County is still debating how and when children will return to classrooms. Goldhagen believes that more things need to be in place before reopening schools including easy access to testing with 24-hour turnaround of results. He even recommends that the school district consider developing its own capacity for testing the 150,000+ people for whom it is responsible.

“This isn’t about theory. This is about experience,” Goldhagen told News4Jax. “It’s about scientific knowledge. It’s about (the) evidence base. It’s about looking to see what’s happening in the United States. It’s about looking at the successive communities in Western Europe. It’s not theory.”

Duval County’s school superintendent wasn’t available for comment Friday afternoon, but spokesman Tracy Pierce sent News4Jax a response saying the American Academy of Pediatrics has different guidance for schools than what Goldhagen suggests.

Pierce also said the school district is are working under an emergency order from Florida’s commissioner of education that requires schools to offer a full-week attendance option or face potential financial penalties.

For more coverage of area schools’ plans to reopen, visit our Facing the Fall special section.

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