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U.S. reports school-related COVID-19 outbreaks, putting world on alert

(Xinhua)    16:44, August 13, 2020

The U.S. state of Louisiana is tracking seven COVID-19 outbreaks tied to schools and colleges, sending an alert to other countries of risks of hasty school resumption.

Figures from the Louisiana Department of Health showed that four outbreaks were linked to colleges and three tied to primary and secondary schools. Data shows that 151 cases are connected to those college outbreaks, and 17 cases are being attributed to outbreaks at primary and secondary schools.

State officials said an outbreak is defined as two or more cases among unrelated individuals that have visited a site within a 14-day period, local TV station WBRZ2 reported, adding that the state started tracking groupings of coronavirus cases at schools this week.

School has resumed in many parishes across Louisiana within the past week, said the report. Some school systems are already holding in-person classes while others chose to stay completely virtual for the first several weeks of the semester.

As production gradually resumes across the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to push other sectors in their daily lives to return to normal. However, school reopening still poses a serious risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The number of COVID-19 cases among children in the United States has increased sharply recently as a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) showed a 90-percent surge in child cases over four weeks.

Experts have said that factors including high COVID-19 infections among adults, increasing gatherings among teenagers and returning to school during the pandemic may contribute to the high infections among children.

"The sharp increase in the number of cases among children is mainly concentrated in COVID-19 'hotspots' such as California, Florida and Arizona. The surge in adult cases in these states also led to an increase in children infections," Zhang Zuofeng, a professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research with the school of public health at University of California, Los Angeles, told Xinhua.

According to the new report of the AAP and CHA, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases in children were reported from July 9 to Aug. 6, a 90-percent increase in child cases over four weeks.

Other analysts have warned reopening schools too early could spread COVID-19 even faster, especially in the developing world.

According to a study conducted by David Lagakos, associate professor of Economics of Boston University and Emilie Yam, head of Communications of International Growth Genter, delaying school openings can be "a potent force for saving lives," by reducing the risk of children getting infected at school, and in turn, spreading the virus within their households.

"Of course, any decisions about delaying school openings must weigh the potential lives saved against the negative impacts of keeping children out of school for a long period," said the study.

A document of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization entitled Prepare for school reopening has suggested that school authorities need to ensure communities' trust in the health and safety measures taken by schools to guarantee the well-being of returning students and to ensure that the risk of contagion is minimized.

"Establish conditions that must be met before schools are reopened," said the document. "This will lessen the probability of a new outbreak and boost the confidence of parents, students, and teachers in terms of school safety."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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