Final Decision Up To School BoardBy Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and other school board members held a meeting with a panel of local medical experts to discuss safety measures for the return to school.

The panel consisted of six doctors and public health professionals.

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The discussion, which took place through ZOOM, took a little more than two hours.

They reviewed the most recent Miami-Dade data, including the nearly 22,000 new cases over the last week, as well as a positivity rate of close to 20%.

Talking points included protocols for school buses, contact tracing, quarantine policy, and masks.

The school board said they installed 25,000 new air filters and 1,000 air purification systems. Buses will be sanitized twice a day, after the morning pick-up and afternoon drop-off.

They also talked about more strategic contact tracing to try to prevent entire classes from being out if someone gets sick, which would be done with seating assignments.

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The topic of masks was addressed. All doctors agreed that masks should be mandatory for students and staff, saying there is no gray area.

“I just want to state the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the CDC— that is recommending face coverings indoors, and we do not recommend any type of opt-out. There is no indication that children should not be wearing masks. They are not harmful in any way,” said Dr. Lisa Gwynn, President of the Florida Chapter of the AAP.

“I would love to not have to have masks in school. I have racked my brain for a better solution. Unfortunately, prevention is absolutely critical and the state that we are in demands that we do what we can to reduce risk,” said Dr. Aileen Marty. “I’ve said that telling students and faculty not to wear masks is the same as telling them not to wear a coat in a blizzard.  But, the truth is, it’s even worse than that because my lack of a mask put your health at risk.”

The doctors also encouraged as much outdoor time as possible for lunch, recess, or physical education and said masks would not be necessary outdoors for these activities.

After the ZOOM meeting, Superintendent Carvalho addressed reporters outside the school board building.

He said that he is in agreement with the recommendations of the health experts and supports mandatory masking. He added, though, that there could be medical opt-outs for certain students.

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The decision is not final yet. This will be taken up for a vote by the board on Wednesday.

Karli Barnett