Dr. William Schaffner: ‘Lots of Countries Have Opened up Schools Safely’

female teacher and students looking the globe with a magnifying glass in the classroom
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Many countries have reopened schools safely following closures during the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. William Schaffner, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University and the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. He offered his analysis on Friday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Hayward.

Mansour asked if and how schools for children can be safely reopened amid coronavirus concerns.

“It is such a tough question because we have such little information,” replied Schaffner. “We don’t know that children spread the COVID virus the way they do the flu virus.”

Schaffner quipped that children “have the distribution franchise” on the flu virus. He added, “They spread that around. There’s no doubt about it.” [With] COVID, we’re not so sure.” Children “are not as severely affected” by COVID-19 and “don’t nearly as often get sick” with the condition, he noted.


Schaffner warned much remains unknown about the novel coronavirus.

“But do [children] get infected and do they spread it?” asked Schaffner. “Of course, that [question] is important to the teachers and everybody else who works in the school. We don’t know that, and if we look at the international community, there are lots of countries that have opened up schools safely, but that was in the context of their having suppressed the virus being spread generally, whereas we’re here with the virus really out of control, so that’s a different circumstance.”

Varying localities will implement different protocols for the reopening of schools, stated Schaffner.

“Everybody is going to worry about opening schools, and we’re going to have a whole variety of different — I call them experiments — going on,” Schaffner remarked, listing different safety measures that may potentially be implemented.

“Some schools will have staggered openings, so that the kids are more spread out and the parents picking them up and dropping them off are also spread out. They’re going to try to spread out the chairs. Some of them won’t go to the cafeteria. They may be fed their lunch in the classroom. They’ll do an awful lot of surface disinfecting. A lot of the older children will be doing virtual learning.”

Schaffner held, “We’re going to be trying an awful lot of different things across the country, and we’ll be, I think, muddling through. I don’t have an answer for this that’s clear, and I’m obviously a bit confused myself.”

Mansour asked about regular “deep cleanings” of schools, widespread provision of topical sanitizers, use of masks, and keeping smaller groups of students apart to reduce the risk of viral transmission as part of a school reopening strategy.

Schaffner responded, “All of those things are individual interventions that will help. They all have their limitations, but the thought is, if we layer up a whole series of things such as you and I have talked about, then together, they may provide a pretty good barrier to help assure the safety of the children.”

“We can’t expect perfect safety,” cautioned Schaffner. “Some parents do. And when we say, ‘Well, we’re reducing the risk. We can’t guarantee safety,’ that gets some parents [asking], ‘Huh?’ But we’re adults here. No guarantee out there, particularly with a new virus about which we still don’t know enough.”

Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

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