Johnson, Colleagues Seek HHS Info for School Reopening

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson joined several colleagues to call on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to provide “the tools and information” schools and families need to return children to the classroom this fall as the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining Johnson, R-6 Ohio, in signing the letter were Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-16 Ohio; Bob Latta, R-5 Ohio; David McKinley, R-1 W. Va.; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-5 Wash.; Morgan Griffith, R-9 Va.; and Pete Olson, R-22 Texas. 

“With the school year rapidly approaching, many families are struggling to decide the best path forward for their children’s education this fall,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. 

“While some parents are reluctant to send their children into classrooms due to their fear of the coronavirus, there are also many parents – like me – who want their children to return to the classroom, five days a week this fall, observing the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines,” he continued. “However, understandably, many families need more information or reassurance. This letter requests just that.”

Research into COVID-19 has established that children are less likely than adults to suffer serious illness or complications from the virus, but how easily children contract the virus and what role they play in spreading it remain unclear. 

Uncovering definitive answers on the role children play in transmitting COVID-19 is critical in efforts to reopen schools safely and on time, the representatives said. The letter calls on HHS to conduct a review of the existing data as soon as possible and disseminate the information.

Schools nationwide are struggling with decisions regarding how and when to fully reopen and permit children to come back into classrooms. A second-grade classroom in Georgia shut down and teachers and students went into quarantine after a student tested positive for COVID-19. 

Johnson said he firmly believes that the threat American children face from COVID-19 is less than the threat posed by continued social isolation and learning loss, a position he said pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control hold. 

“Schools not opening up in person will lead to yet another catastrophic impact on American families, especially those that need the assistance that in-person schooling provides, like: single moms; parents who both work outside of the home; families in rural communities that do not have access to broadband; and children stuck in unstable homes that are no longer able to escape the despair of a toxic home environment for seven hours a day,” he said. 

“I know, because I was one of them,” he added. 

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.