Dr. Fauci to Colorado: Close bars, open schools

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — During a question-and-answer session with Gov. Jared Polis and Dr. Anthony Fauci Tuesday afternoon, Fauci offered bold guidance for Colorado schools.

“Close the bars and open the schools and that’s it,” Fauci said. 

Fauci followed his comment by saying research shows “it’s bars, indoor seating at restaurants, particularly at full capacity” that are the biggest culprits in spreading COVID-19 in the U.S. 

The advice to prioritize schools over bars and restaurants echoes Polis, who has urged districts to keep elementary students in their classrooms. 

However, many districts have reverted back to fully remote learning following recent spikes in COVID cases. 

“Without being melodramatic, it’s been horrendous,” Patrick McCarthy told FOX31. 

He is the parent of twins at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora. They are in their senior year and McCarthy says they are falling behind academically, socially and emotionally due to remote learning. 

“I don’t understand this counter movement because all we’re doing is ruining our kids’ education and potentially their future,” he said. 

His sentiments are shared by parents across the state. Kelly Holdridge has three children at Timnath Elementary School near Fort Collins. She describes remote learning as “heartbreaking.”

“My son constantly calls himself dumb and I know that he’s not,” Holdridge said. “It just makes you want to cry and sometimes I just do. Sometimes I just grab him up and we cry together.”

While school districts statewide agree that in-person learning is best for students, many say it is more complicated than simply closing bars and opening classrooms.

Even as indoor dining is temporarily off-limits, Cherry Creek School District announced Tuesday it plans to stay remote until 2021. 

“Due to the minimal reporting of student cases and continued high COVID incident rate in Arapahoe County (nearly 1,000 cases per 100,000 people) and the state, we are unable to operate schools,” CCSD said in a statement. 

At their school board meeting Tuesday night, Douglas County Interim Superintendent Corey Wise told board members the district plans to reopen elementary schools for in-person learning Jan. 4, 2021 as long as they can figure out staff logistics to do it. 

“When we talk about substitute teachers, we also run out of bus drivers, nutrition services, so we have to work on those things,” Wise sad. 

Aurora Public Schools says the transmission rate will play a big factor in its decision to return to classrooms. 

“We intend to transition back to in-person learning after Winter Break assuming that community transmission curbs. We all have a responsibility to do our part in minimizing the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to evaluate data and make decisions that are in the best interest of our students, staff and families. Please know that our focus remains on providing as much in-person learning as is safely possible,” the district said in a statement last month. 

Following Fauci’s advice to Colorado, it is unclear whether individual districts plan to revise their reopening procedures. 

“It makes you feel hopeful but you still can’t get super confident and hopeful because of how things are going,” Holdridge said. 

“I have every confidence,” McCarthy said. “We can do carry-out restaurants. Carry-out education doesn’t work.”

Thousands of bars and restaurants stand to lose much-needed revenue if Colorado chooses to keep them closed. 

“This is the very reason that our legislature is in a special session right now working on bipartisan economic aid for restaurants and bars — because we know that it’s not fair to ask them to put their entire life and business at risk,” Polis said. 

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