Councilmembers call for schools to reopen, but healthcare and education leaders say look at the data


FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A pair of Fresno city councilmembers, Clovis’ mayor, and a former Fresno mayor, collectively voiced their opposition to school closures in Fresno Thursday amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our children’s lives and their future is at stake,” said Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld. “The depression, anxiety, social isolation, failure academically, child abuse that is being unreported. Does that matter? Matters to me.”

“It is sad,” said Former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry. “It is frightening and if we let it continue, we will rue the day we did not open the schools. That is the mental, emotional, and physical crisis that is keeping them at home. Keeping them scared to death, and not letting them go with their peers.”

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi agrees, so long as schools integrate safety protocols such as disinfectant and PPE.

“School districts need to get it together,” said Councilmember Karbassi. “Those that don’t have plans to meet the socio-emotional needs of our kids. Some are failing to provide information to educators.”

Parents at the press conference share the same frustration.

“We are 12 days from school,” said Fresno Unified Parent Jason Peterson. “We haven’t heard a single thing from Fresno Unified.”

Schools are not in the city officials’ jurisdiction; the state and the school districts have the power to bring back in-person tuition. The governor said he would only allow schools to reopen if the county they are in is off the watch list for at least two weeks. Fresno County remains on the watch list.

Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino says he continues to follow guidance given from state officials.

“We still have a mandate in our county in order to open schools and put children in seats we have to get off that watch list,” Yovino.

Leaving the watch list requires no more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, a positive case rate below 8% for two weeks, and a 10% or lower increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over a three day period.

“We are all trying to get there but we are also relying heavily on our local Valley health officer and what’s happening in our community right now,” said Yovino.

Yovino says he is listening to health officials and taking their recommendations seriously.

Studies show the risk to children, especially under the age of 10 is low. However, there is still concern from local health executives.

“We continue to have kids in our ICU,” said President and CEO of Valley Children’s Todd Suntrapak. “That is greatly troubling to us. We would like for that not to be the case but for anyone to suggest that there have not been pediatric cases in the Valley is inconsistent with the data.”

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