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DEAR EDITOR:

It is time to reconsider how to reopen Polk schools. Safety must come first. The CDC guidelines call for students and staff to wear masks and to maintain social distancing. This means spreading out students in classrooms and requiring them to wear a face covering in class. The New York daycare/schools were able to throttle the spread of COVID in their facilities only by requiring both distancing and masking.

Also, decision makers must consider the presence of substantial community spread as part of the strategy process. Polk County has seen a doubling of cases in July. After suffering one death in the first four months of the spreading pandemic, Polk sadly lost three people just in July. Decision makers have pointed to the percent of the population having died from COVID has being just at 1%. How is that relevant? A similar statistic likely applies to the number of Polk residents dying in a car accident in the last five months, but no one would advocate non-compliance with seat belt usage.

We take reasonable steps to prevent even one death. The family members of the 1% who have died in Polk would say that the lives of their loved ones matter. Delay school until late September or start the first few months online until the weather permits leaving windows and doors open for ventilation. Require light cloth or surgical masks in the classroom. Spread out students in the classrooms as well. Both requirements are necessary to prohibit turning the schools into a massive petri dish that serves to blow up the spread of the virus throughout our community.

Perry T. Barrett

Rockmart, Ga.

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