Some Mid-South parents, doctors pushing for better COVID-19 safety protocols in schools

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 8:32 PM CDT
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DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - Nearly two months after the start of school, some Desoto County parents are still begging for more safety measures to be put in place.

Now, close to 50 pediatricians are offering to partner with Desoto County Schools (DCS) to implement things like universal masking.

So far, there have been no changes to COVID-19 protocols in the schools.

An open letter signed by at least 44 pediatricians said DeSoto County Schools need better COVID-19 safety protocols.

In a county where the vaccination is less than 40 percent, the doctors say “The highly contagious delta variant, in combination with our low vaccination rates, means that higher numbers of children will be exposed to COVID-19”

“I think the current plan diverges from what the vast majority of medical professionals would recommend, and that’s concerning.” Dr. Matthew Rees said.

Rees is a pediatrician and father to DCS students.

Rees and other physicians said they finally got a meeting with DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton where they were told their concerns would be given to the school board. After several weeks, the group heard nothing from the board, so the open letter was published.

Rees said all the doctors are parents of DCS students or healthcare providers of those students.

The physicians are not only asking for universal masking in the schools, they want the district to provide more information about vaccines to families and more robust COVID-19 testing.

“None of these interventions on their own are the magic bullet,” Rees said. “None of them are foolproof. That’s why we recommend a layered approach.”

Since the start of school in August, more than 2,000 students in DeSoto County have tested positive for COVID-19. The virus goes on to affect thousands more students considered close contacts and sent home to quarantine.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, cases are starting to decline in school-aged children.

Rees said the group wants to be a partner with the district.

“The most important thing is kids stay in the classroom as much as possible and they stay safe and healthy,” Rees said. “That’s our goal and I believe that’s the district’s goal as well.”

A mask mandate was in place most of last school year, but Uselton previously said one is not in place this year because there is not a statewide or countywide mandate in place.

On Wednesday, DCS sent this statement in response to the open letter:

“District officials appreciate the input offered by Memphis-area physicians. Even though student COVID cases continue to decline in DeSoto County Schools, these suggestions will be taken into consideration as mitigation plans are revisited periodically throughout the school year.”

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