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Follow the Data Podcast: Is It Safe to Reopen Schools?

With back to school on everyone’s minds, students, parents, educators, public health experts and politicians continue to debate on the safety of reopening schools for in-person instruction.

In Florida – a state that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic – 13 counties reopened schools last week as officials ordered schools to offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. Not long after they reopened, 3 of those districts reported positive virus tests among students or teachers. And when a suburban Atlanta county began classroom instruction, nearly 1,200 students and faculty members in the district were ordered to quarantine in just over a week since reopening schools. With concerns about safety and threats of funding cuts, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to reopening America’s schools.

On this episode, we talk to Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, where she leads research partnerships with public health practitioners in order to document their learnings and improve our readiness for large and challenging outbreaks. She also co-wrote a New York Times op-ed earlier this summer, called “We Have to Focus on Opening Schools, Not Bars.”

Dr. Nuzzo joined Dr. Kelly Henning, who leads our public health program, to share advice for schools and school administrators trying to enforce social distancing and mask wearing, to discuss how students, teachers, and administrators who are immunosuppressed should approach returning to the classroom, and to tell us more about how other countries are approaching school reopening.

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

For more from our coronavirus series:

  • Ruth Karron, the Director of the Center for Immunization Research and of the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sat down with Dr. Josh Sharfstein to tell us more about how we can build trust with communities to allay concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine on “Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions, Answered.” This episode was borrowed from “Public Health on Call,” the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s podcast.
  • On “How Cities Are Supporting Arts & Culture During COVID-19,” Justine Simons, the Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries of London, joined Tracey Knuckles, who helps cities develop strategies for strengthening their creative sector in her role at Bloomberg Associates, to discuss what strategies cities are implementing as they navigate re-opening cultural institutions.
  • On “Systemic Racism as a Public Health Issue,” Dr. Lisa Cooper, the Director of The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity and of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, joined the podcast to tell us more about what can be done to reduce the toll of COVID-19 on Black and Latino communities.
  • Emily Gurley, who spearheaded the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing course, spoke with Kelly Larson of our public health program about the role technology plays in fighting COVID-19 on “Training an Army of Contact Tracers.”
  • Everytown for Gun Safety’s Director of Research, Sarah Burd-Sharps, joined the podcast to share precautions that gun owners can take to prevent unintentional shootings during the pandemic on “The Pandemic’s Effect on Gun Violence.”
  • On “The Data Behind the Pandemic,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, the Director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sat down with Dr. Kelly Henning, who leads our public health program, to tell us more about the power of social media during the pandemic.
  • Nate Mook, the CEO of World Central Kitchen, joined Bloomberg Philanthropies Senior Advisor Brynne Craig to tell us more about how re-opening is shifting World Central Kitchen’s work on “Food First Responders.”
  • On “How Helsinki, Finland, is Responding to COVID-19,” Mayor Jan Vapaavuori sat down Kelly Larson, who works on our public health team, for a conversation around what’s keeping mayors hopeful right now.
  • Michelle King, the co-creator of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight,” Brooke Kennedy, executive producer of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight,” actress Christine Baranski, actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Joseph Benincasa, President & CEO of The Actors Fund, spoke with Bloomberg Associates’ Katherine Oliver about how the Actors Fund is helping people in performing arts and entertainment in need on “Lights, Camera…Action?
  • Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr sat down with Dr. Kelly Henning to tell us more about “How Freetown, Sierra Leone is Responding to COVID-19.”
  • The Cost of Recovery for Our Cities, Part 2,” features Rose Gill, a principal at Bloomberg Associates, in conversation with Jerry DeLoach, the Head of the Cost Recovery team for the City of Atlanta, and Steven Kobre, a Partner at Kobre + Kim, about the role of monitors in reviewing the use of federal aid and emerging cases that involve fraud.
  • Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, spoke with Dr. Jessica Leighton of our public health team about how blood plasma has been used to treat infectious diseases in the past on “A Promising Treatment for COVID-19.”
  • Amanda McClelland, the Senior Vice President of Prevent Epidemics and Resolve to Save Lives at Vital Strategies, joined Dr. Jennifer Ellis of our public health program for an episode entitled, “Slowing the Spread of COVID-19 in Africa.” They discuss how response to the coronavirus has differed from other recent outbreaks and why it’s important to prioritize slowing the spread of coronavirus in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Adam Freed, a principal at Bloomberg Associates, joined Natasha Rogers, the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Newark, and Brad Gair, a principal at Witt O’Brien’s, a national emergency management consultancy, to discuss how cities can engage and get support from the state and federal government on “The Cost of Recovery for Our Cities, Part 1.”
  • The Intersection of COVID-19 and Transportation” features Janette Sadik-Khan, a principal at Bloomberg Associates and Chair of NACTO, in conversation with Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of NACTO, and Mark de la Vergne, Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit, about how cities can provide safer, healthier transportation options for people going forward.
  • Behind the Scenes of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Map” was borrowed from “Public Health on Call,” the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s podcast. In the episode, Dr. Josh Sharfstein, the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Beth Blauer, Executive Director of Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins, discuss how the global dashboard was created and how its data can help individuals and officials make informed decisions for COVID-19 response.
  • Josh Sharfstein also joined the podcast to tell us more about how the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School is tackling the coronavirus from every angle on “Responding to a Pandemic Crisis.”
  • Megan Sheekey of Bloomberg Associates sat down with Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, to discuss the role of foundations in supporting social service and cultural organizations across New York City on “How to Help Nonprofits Hit Hard by COVID-19.”
  • On “‘World War C’ – Us Against the Microbe,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, joined Dr. Kelly Henning, who leads our public health program, to discuss how we can keep our cities running and safe.