AUSTIN, Texas - Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott issued an order to all independent districts and private schools operating in Travis County.
The order, effective July 14, says:
- School systems shall not re-open schools for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020;
- Virtual instruction shall be permitted as per a school system’s own plan;
- Extracurricular sports and activities shall not take place until school systems re-open for on-campus instruction;
- At least two weeks prior to re-opening for on-campus instruction and on-campus activities, the school or district shall develop a plan to be submitted to the Austin/Travis County Health Authority for re-opening on-campus activities and instruction and make the plan available for parents and general public.
The order comes as several school districts moved to remote learning for the first three weeks of school.
Dr. Escott presented sobering data predictions to Travis County Commissioners Thursday morning. Escott said without a vaccine his office estimates about 70 percent of students could contract COVID-19.
“Right now at stage four and certainly at stage five, it would be very dangerous for us to open up schools,” said Dr. Escott. “In that 0.03 percent to 1.02 percent for Travis County could equate to between 40 and 1,370 deaths in that age group.
The biggest challenge health officials are foreseeing is maintaining operations. “We see this every year in terms of influenza. We have to make recommendations that schools close every year because of the flu,” said Escott. “Imagine that this is at least twice as contagious as the flu.”
Pflugerville and Austin ISDs have moved to a delayed start. Meanwhile, Leander ISD is requesting the TEA and governor to consider suspending in-person instruction until the 7-day hospitalization average is five or less.
“The schools need time,” said Dr. Escott. “They need time to plan any time to orient their faculty and staff in the new realities.”
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