WDHN Exclusive: State Health Officer talks schools reopening, fall athletics, and increased COVID-19 cases

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Many school systems are considering opening back up in about a month and many parents are concerned about what to do. That is why State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris’ team is continually monitoring the state’s COVID-19 cases.

“At this time we have more than 45,000 cases,” Harris said. “We’ve passed 1,000 deaths, I’m very sorry to say, of Alabamians. So numbers continue to increase.”

The Alabama High School Athletic Association is meeting this week to devise a plan for football this fall. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) will continue advising schools and athletic organizations as they decide what to do.

“We do have concerns about how that is going to take place,” Harris told WDHN. “We certainly tried to give our best guidance on that. Ultimately, some things are going to be difficult to do in a completely safe fashion, but we hope they will be able to do them as safely as possible.”

As case numbers rise to a certain level, schools are having to decide how to provide learning for the upcoming 2020-2021 year. According to Harris, the final decision will be up to local schools.

“Certainly we’ll have recommendations on that,” Harris said. “Ultimately those decisions are going to be made at the local level by local school boards with the help of their superintendents, but certainly we want to make sure that people have the best information about disease transmission in their community so they can make the safest decision.”

In the past, Harris has mentioned that the increase in COVID-19 cases is not due to testing. His opinion remains the same.

“The percentage of tests that we are doing now that are positive is higher than we have ever seen it so far,” Harris explained. “Almost 12 percent of all tests we do are positive. Even though we’re testing more, more test results are returning positive and that explains the increase in numbers that we’re seeing.”

Dr. Harris’ full interview can be viewed at the top of this page.

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