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Concern grows over schools reopening after infection at summer program

Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 3:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 6-year-old attending a summer program in Aiea tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, raising new concerns for some about Hawaii schools reopening Aug. 4.

But others say there’s no safer place in the nation to reopen schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Hawaii has the lowest infection rate of any state by far – 80 patients for every 100,000 people.

The next closest state, Montana, has more than twice as many.

And health officials, school leaders and many parents say with numbers like that, it’s time to bite the bullet and send kids back to class.

Gov. David Ige said freeing up parents to get back to work is one of many factors the state is trying to balance.

“We know how important it is for our students to begin to relearn again. To get into that learning environment. We know that there are many challenges if the schools don’t open with childcare,” Ige said.

But weeks before the start of the fall semester, an infection at a summer program has many people worried.

A 6-year-old at Kamaaina Kids tested positive for the virus on Saturday, forcing the program at St. Timothy’s church to shut down.

Now, 44 kids and staffers are on a two-week quarantine.

“There’s a 14-day quarantine. But they are able to go to do trace testing just to see if they do have the virus. If anyone is nervous or concerned about it, they can go and get tested,” said Ray Sanborn, Kamaaina Kids CEO.

It's a clear example for those who think schools should not reopen.

“I’m not in favor. I think one child, not even dying, even getting sick is way too much to risk,” said Moiliili resident Davin Lassiter.

Back on March 15, when the Department of Education extended spring break, there were seven total coronavirus cases in Hawaii.

As of Tuesday, there are 321 active cases.

Some parents suggest outdoor learning as an option.

“They benefit so much being outside. Just looking outside, feeling, being in nature, and the wind and feeling the sun. There’s so much research that talks about how it’s fabulous for learning to be outside,” said Honomu resident Jennifer Kane.

The DOE says since Hawaii is currently operating under the "Act with Care" level of reopening, schools are cleared to open with "physical distancing and safe practices."

The spokesperson said if that level changes, they will reevaluate.

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