New River Valley health district director says students need to return to classroom soon

Despite a rise in cases, Dr. Noelle Bissell says it’s more risky to keep students out of schools

NEW RIVER VALLEY – The debate continues to heat up as people weigh in on whether students should return to class.

Despite a rise in cases in the New River Valley after the holidays, Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Valley health district, said a plan to get kids back in the classroom is needed.

“You have to look at the risk of bringing them back versus the risk of not bringing them back in,” Bissell said. “We are seeing significant fallout from kids not being in the classroom. I do think it’s really important to emphasize getting our kids back to in-person learning.”

Bissell said because of good mitigation practices like keeping a six-foot distance and wearing masks, health leaders are not seeing significant transmission in school.

Rather, Bissell said the spread is coming from gathering outside of the classroom.

“We find the transmission is happening is when people are outside of schools or outside of work having their social gatherings,” Bissell said. “And they are car pooling and doing other things like birthday parties.”

As for college students returning, Bissell does not think they will bring a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We don’t expect to see the surges like we saw before because most of those folks who are social and maybe didn’t abide by the precautions already had COVID,” Bissell said. “And so they are going to have some immunity there.”

Bissell thanked college students for taking caution as she said ER visits were drastically lower in the fall.

Bissell said with most students living off-campus, it’s not fair to point the finger at them if cases spike.

“I do want to get away from this blaming our students for bringing it or exacerbating it,” Bissell said.

About the Author: