This COVID Outbreak Is a Sign of What's to Come With Schools, Doctor Says

Rising cases are inevitable once schools reopen—here's what a former FDA head is most worried about.

As the start of the 2020-2021 school year looms closer and closer, the debate rages on over whether in-person learning should resume. Though children seem less likely to become sick from COVID-19, they can carry the coronavirus (and, in fact, may be even more infectious than adults). And while distance learning has put a strain on many families, experts are warning that reopening schools could lead to outbreaks that are difficult to control. This week, a doctor and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pointed to the outbreaks occurring within Major League Baseball as an indication of what may be to come.

Appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box on Aug. 3, Scott Gottlieb, MD, said that coronavirus case spikes within various MLB teams are "a warning of what could potentially happen" when schools reopen, if there isn't a plan in place for containing outbreaks.

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MLB returned at the end of July, albeit without fans in the seats. Contrary to how the National Basketball Association (NBA) has sheltered players in a Florida "bubble" for living, practice, and play, professional baseball is operating in a manner closer to normal, with players and staff traveling for games. CNN reports that 13 people in the St. Louis Cardinals organization and two staff members of the Philadelphia Phillies have tested positive for the coronavirus. The league launched an investigation into another team, the Miami Marlins, when at least 20 people between players and staff tested positive for the disease. (The investigation found that safety protocols were not properly observed during a trip to an exhibition game, per CBS Sports.) Individual players have opted out of playing under the threat of COVID—in the case of New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, simply disappearing before a game, according to another CNN report.

So how do the MLB's struggles relate to opening schools? "I think it is a warning for what could potentially happen if we're not very careful with the schools," Gottlieb told CNBC. "The question's going to become, when do you close the school? And that really wasn't addressed by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]." The CDC's guidelines on operating schools include many strategies for mitigation, but no indicator of when buildings should be shuttered again in the case of an outbreak.

Gottlieb indicated that school outbreaks are going to be impossible to avoid, leading eventually to re-closures. The next hurdle, he said, is that "it's going to be really hard to get them reopened." And for more on how COVID infections happen, Dr. Fauci Says There's Now Evidence That Coronavirus Spreads This Way.

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