WASHINGTON - Health experts within the D.C. area, are warning the public to avoid gatherings during the holidays, citing that COVID-19 cases are likely to surge during “six weeks of super-spreader events.”
“We are expecting to see a continued increase in cases throughout most of the country and they will likely be tied to these super spreading events like holidays and gatherings,” said Amira Roess, professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at George Mason University.
With cases spiking throughout the country already, Roess said, there is concern that family and friends gatherings are going to make a bad situation, worse.
She said the combination of holiday travel and get-togethers could be a trigger in causing a spike in cases among students and educators, especially when school systems have been planning on getting kids back into the classroom.
The infectious disease expert said that right now, there is a lot of transmission happening, which means, people of all ages are going to be infected and spread the virus as we get into the next six weeks of holiday gatherings.
As far as students and schools are concerned, Roess said, often times younger kids are following the rules of covering their faces or social distancing.
Older students, she said are often doing the opposite.
“A large percentage of high school children or teenagers are getting too close to their friends or aren’t wearing the masks and that makes it harder for educators to keep everyone safe in those settings,” Roess said.
The other major point Roess made was that it’s the adults, many of whom are educators or school staff members who will need to think twice before traveling for the holidays or even having gatherings in the next six weeks, which she added, could impact a lot of the decision making that’s going into fully reopening schools again.
Late Thursday, Montgomery County Health Officer, Dr. Travis Gayles sent a letter to private and parochial schools, urging them to move to all-virtual instruction, citing a surge in coronavirus infections, with case rates increasing daily.
“The risk of covid-19 spreading in a school is directly related to the level of covid-19 spread in the community and safety measures in schools,” Gayles wrote.
“Maintaining low levels of in-school transmissions will become more difficult as the cases continue to soar throughout the community, leading to more disruptions in learning. We strongly encourage all schools in Montgomery County to reassess continued in-person instruction and strongly consider a return to full virtual instruction until such time as the numbers are below 15/100,000.”
Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan also reached out to school districts within Prince George’s, Fairfax, Loudoun and Montogmery Counties, no one, except for MCPS responded to our inquiry into how they plan to handle the reopening of schools once students and educators return from the holidays.
MCPS spokesperson, Gboyinde Onijala said in a statement:
“As MCPS prepares for the return of students beginning January 12, 2021, it will take all of us doing our part to ensure we can begin the phased-in return of students in the new year. We want to implore all members of the MCPS community to follow all safety and health guidance from the state and the CDC including physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
Some parents and grandparents told Ayesha on Friday, that they aren’t going anywhere nor are they having holiday get togethers while keeping in mind that anything like it could mean that their kids could stay from school for even longer after the holidays are over.
“If families stay together in their circle and the children are with the people they live with then there won’t be any new exposure or exposed to someone new coming in,” said Carolyn Gordon, a grandmother in Rockville.
“That way maybe we can get our kids back into the school system.”
“I don’t think it’s their place or even possible for the school district to be able to track all of the families and what they did for Thanksgiving, so that is something I think would be harder to do,” said Toby Mann, who recently began homeschooling his children.
A link to guidelines for holiday gatherings provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found here.