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Arizona pediatrician: Risk of COVID-19 ‘relatively low’ for kids in school

(KTAR News photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — While some parents continue to have concerns over COVID-19, a Glendale-based pediatrician believes it is possible for students to safely return to school for in-person learning.

“For children without significant health problems and with proper mitigation strategies, the risk is relatively low,” said Dr. Jason Vargas, who’s also the president of the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

He pointed out that research shows children are not the main source of community transmission of COVID-19. If they get infected, they often have mild or no symptoms at all.

“Experiences have also demonstrated that schools can operate in-person safely here in Arizona,” Vargas said.

Nearly 60% of district and charter schools across the state are already offering some form of in-person classes. More are expected to expand in-person learning opportunities as case numbers decrease and vaccinations increase.

Vargas spoke at a press conference Wednesday alongside State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

Hoffman stressed it’s still up to districts and charter schools to decide when to reopen, if they haven’t already.

She also encouraged them to follow newly-released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. It states schools can reopen safely if they have proper mitigation strategies in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Vargas agreed that schools can reopen safely if they follow the CDC’s recommendations – including masks, physical distancing, frequent handwashing, respiratory hygiene and contact tracing.

He also addressed concerns parents have about a condition that develops among kids who’ve had COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome causes different parts of the body and organs to become severely inflamed.

“The overwhelming majority of these children, however, who’ve had this recover with minimal treatment,” he said.

Vargas urged parents who still have concerns about their kids returning to school to speak with their doctor regarding their family’s specific situation.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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