‘Not looking terribly good’ for 6-12 students to return to full in-person learning this school year

Education

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local health experts currently aren’t optimistic about students in grades 6-12 returning to in-person learning by the end of the school year. 

For that to happen, COVID-19 cases around Monroe County need to decrease. However, cases among children are on the rise. 

“The trend currently is not looking terribly good to get that rate down such that the schools will be open in the 6-12 grades, said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mendoza

Although COVID-19 cases in Monroe County are rising among younger adults, not a lot of them are getting vaccinated at rates officials want to see. 

“The lowest vaccination rate is among those between the ages of 16 and 24, and that is certainly a group we would like to focus some attention on,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, the Head of the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub.

Variants on the rise in Monroe County could also be having an impact on cases rising among children and young adults. 

“We know the UK variant is making up over 60% cases we are seeing locally and it is thought to be a little more infectious, although it doesn’t make folks more sick from what we know so far,” said Dr. Steven Schulz, Pediatric Medical Director with Rochester Regional Health.

Health experts say for numbers to go down, it’s going to take a group effort and that includes teens and young adults. 

“I’m really more concerned about making sure that young students, young adults understand that their actions have an impact on the larger community,” Mendoza said. “You might not get sick, your friends may not get sick, but when we take this all as a collective, it’s pulling our numbers in the wrong direction and it’s making it difficult, if not impossible, for our schools to follow the guidelines and reopen more fully.”

Young adults are more likely to be asymptomatic than older individuals, which experts say makes getting the vaccine important. 

“We know that especially teenagers can be asymptotic carriers of this, and having the vaccine helps reduce their risk of becoming an asymptomatic carrier or passing that on to someone else,” explained Dr. Schulz. 

According to new state health guidelines, middle and high schools may now shift from the 6-foot distancing requirement to the new 3-foot requirement, depending on cohort sizes in the schools and rates of infection on the county level.

The current infection rate in Monroe County is over 200 per 100,000 residents. That number has to be under 100 for middle and high schools to reduce distancing to 3 ft and allow students back for in-person learning. 

Already, some school districts have decided to keep 6-12th grade students hybrid for the remainder of the school year.

The Rochester City School District and Canandaigua School District are two that are doing so. 

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