Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem discussed her state’s plans to reopen public schools during a Wednesday “Fox & Friends” segment.
“Well, the science is clear our kids need to be in school,” Noem said. “It’s better for them. “We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t checked in since this virus hit. It’s really our most vulnerable population that needs to be back in those classrooms.”
Arguing that distance learning isn’t “as effective as being in the classroom,” Noem insisted that schools will start “on time” and in person.
“And then also, we have a lot of kids that don’t have a stable home environment,” she said. “They don’t have parents that are really being responsible to make sure that they’re learning. Those are the kids that are getting hurt the most. And in South Dakota, in some districts, it’s up to 30 percent of the children.”
After Fox News co-host Steve Doocy pushed back with teacher concerns, some of whom “have conditions that put them at risk,” the South Dakota governor said there are “accommodations that can be made” for the third or so of teachers she said are in the “vulnerable population.”
“I met with administrators yesterday and they are all being very flexible with our teachers … allowing for social distancing, allowing them to teach the online classes,” Noem said. “To do things a little differently than in the past.”
“And I want to remind you the transmission rate between children of this virus is very, very low,” Noem continued. “You know, this is safer for our kids to be in classrooms for these teachers than being in Walmart.”
While Noem said that each district could “make a different decision that works for their facilities,” she also insisted she was not “mandating any masks at the state level.”
“You know, it certainly would be challenging for a child to keep a mask on for seven-eight hours a day, even while I’ve sat with a child that had one on five or 10 minutes is very difficult for them,” she said. “And they’re constantly touching it, taking it off, dropping it on the floor. Those all increase rates of infection and it’s certainly not an environment that is going to help them stay safe.”
Citing less severe symptoms in children as well as evidence of lower transmission to other children or adults, the CDC’s guidance currently says that “available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students.” The agency does recommend cloth face coverings for students and teachers when unable to socially distance.
“So I think that every school district is approaching it differently and telling parents if your children want to wear masks they can, but we’re not going to make them,” Noem continued, adding that parents have told her they “have no idea how” children “would ever keep a mask on all day.”
While some South Dakota school districts plan to require masks, others, including Sioux Falls, have so far not included mandatory masks in their openings plans, AP reported. Public universities in the state plan to require masks for the first 30 days of instruction. (RELATED: ‘I Believe In Our Freedoms And Liberties’: South Dakota Governor Responds To Critics Of State’s Coronavirus Response)
A study earlier this month out of South Korea suggests that, while transmission from children under 10 is rare but possible, those “between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do,” the New York Times reported.
“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm told the Times. “There will be transmission. What we have to do is accept that now and include that in our plans.”