As the country prepares for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, Senator Win Gatchalian is calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to study the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in allowing face-to-face classes. The CDC is a national public health institute in the United States.
Gatchalian cited a January 2021 journal article published by CDC experts which pointed out that while schools in the U.S. opened for in-person instruction, there was little evidence that they increased community transmission of COVID-19. Citing recommendations by these same experts, Gatchalian emphasized that the resumption of face-to-face classes is possible if the risk of community transmission is reduced and health protocols are observed including handwashing, frequent use of alcohol, wearing face masks, and practicing social distancing.
“Kung papayagan lang naman natin ang mga batang lumabas ng kanilang bahay, mas mainam na lang na sa eskwelahan na lang sila magpunta. May malaking maitutulong pa sa kanilang kapakanan kung magagabayan sila ng personal ng kanilang mga guro sa kanilang aralin at makakasalamuha pa nila ang kanilang mga kamag-aral,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
The CDC report stated that during the fall of 2020, 11 school districts in North Carolina with 90,000 students and staff opened for in-person classes for nine weeks. During that time, there were only 32 infections acquired in schools compared to 773 community infections, while no cases of student-to-staff transmission were recorded.
In 17 K to 12 schools in rural Wisconsin, where mask wearing was a requirement, only seven out of 191 infections among staff and students recorded were proven to be results of in-school transmission. These findings were generated during a 13-week period in the fall of 2020.
Gatchalian added that allowing safe face-to-face classes will help address the challenges hounding distance learning, which include unstable internet connectivity and the lack of physical interaction with teachers and fellow students.
He also reiterated calls to prioritize teachers in the COVID-19 vaccination program since they are at the forefront of school preparations.