New Texas school COVID-19 guidelines rattle medical experts

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is out with new COVID-19 health guidance for schools that’s giving some medical experts cause for concern. 

The new guidelines state that schools don’t have to inform parents of positive cases; schools do not have to contact trace; and parents can choose to send a student to school if he or she has been in close contact with a positive case, among other updates. 

Texas rules maintain that school systems must exclude students from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19 or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19. Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school if he or she has COVID-19 symptoms or is test-confirmed with COVID-19 until the conditions for re-entry are met. TEA says schools may offer remote learning to students who are out.

The guidance states that school systems can consult with their local public health authorities and local legal authorities before making final decisions regarding the implementation of the guidance, however.

Medical experts weigh in

Dr. Dara Kass, associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, takes issue with the guideline that parents don’t need to be notified of cases in schools. 

“How can a family assess their own risk if they don’t know if their kid was exposed? The context here is that (it’s) indoors, close proximity, poor ventilation, and mask-free with unvaccinated people. It’s objectively insane,” she told Yahoo Finance. Per Texas executive order, school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.

Dr. Leana Wen is a public health professor at George Washington University and former health commissioner of Baltimore. She tells Yahoo Finance that she is concerned that Texas education officials are not fully adhering to CDC recommendations.

“We know that schools can be safe for kids from a COVID standpoint if mitigation measures are followed,” said Dr. Wen.

“Testing and contact tracing remain essential, along with universal indoor masking. It’s very concerning that Texas is not following CDC guidance for masking, testing, contact tracing, and other key preventive measures,” she said.

Some in the medical community questioned the motives of the new guidance and suggest the new measures are politically motivated rather than being rooted in science.

“What is this new guidance from the Texas Education Association meant for? It’s clearly not to protect students, teachers or staff at their schools,” Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University, told Yahoo Finance. 

“This is conservative virtue signaling. It’s meant to send a message: We don’t care about public health expertise or guidance, we are all about liberty and freedom unconstrained by any responsibility to others. Give me liberty and give me COVID.”

Yahoo Finance reached out to TEA for comment. 

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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