Dr. Ken Williams, a primary care physician and university clinical professor who serves on the Orange County Board of Education, is eager to see kids go back to school in the fall, and he wants them to experience a healthy and safe environment.
“Kids, because of the low risk, don’t need a mask. They don’t need to social distance, and it may be unhealthy for them,” Dr. Williams told The Epoch Times.
The county has been at the center of a recent debate about plans to reopen school districts in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Orange County Board on July 13 recommending that schools not enforce the use of masks and social distancing for children.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Education, has recommended that students use cloth face coverings, especially when children are unable to social distance.
On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list must only offer distance learning in the fall. To resume in-person classes, a county must be off the watch list for 14 days in a row.
More than half of the counties in California are on the list, including Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties.
Dr. Williams said many parents are worried about keeping their children home from school, and they’ve struggled with making sure their kids do well with their schoolwork at home.
“Distance learning is very, very difficult,” he said, “especially if you’re a parent and you have to work outside the home. What does your child do online? And that’s part of the biggest complaint that I hear by parents, is that they don’t feel empowered to be a teacher.”
While Dr. Williams used to believe that masking was important for everyone, he says the data convinced him that children are very low risk.
“We all had the thought at the time (in March) that this is going to turn out to be like the 1918 epidemic, where depending on where you read, 50 to 100 million people died in the world. This virus has not turned out to be that,” he said.
At the same time, the country is very divided on the correct response to the pandemic when it comes to the school environment, he said. Many parents agree that allowing children the freedom to play and interact together during the school day is better for their overall education, but school districts are worried about the liability of exposing teachers to the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
“There are those who want the tight grip, following strict orders, wearing your mask, social distancing, and it’s almost like you have to fall in line with that public health recommendation that we sometimes think of as a scientifically validated position, and there’s a lot of us who don’t believe that position,” said Dr. Williams.
He believes that as many as 40 percent of children in Orange County may not return to school if the schools don’t open. Parents may choose to homeschool, switch to a charter or private school, or they may even move out of state.
“There’s going to be a lot of parents who are going to be very upset if their kids go back to facial masking and social distancing. They want their children to have the best and optimal emotional, psychological environment to learn.”
Dr. Williams expects the recommendations and procedures to be different for practically every county and school district around the country for the fall school year, which makes it challenging for parents.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for parents to be the primary teachers for their children, but for those parents who have to have two incomes to make ends meet, what do we do for those kids?” he asked.