COVID school closures before restaurant restrictions is ‘backwards,’ former FDA head Scott Gottlieb says

Photo of Tara O'Neill
A file photo of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner.

A file photo of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Closing schools should be a last resort in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Federal Drug Association said Friday.

Gottlieb, a Westport resident who was a guest last week during a Gov. Ned Lamont COVID press conference, said Friday that officials should instead focus on known “sources of community spread.”

Appearing on CNBC, Gottlieb said closing schools before limiting things like indoor dining is doing things “backwards.” He pointed to New York City — which switched its students to full remote learning this week after reaching a 3 percent positivity rate — as an example.

“We should do everything possible to preserve schools,” Gottlieb said. “We should be trying to curtail whatever activities we know as sources of community spread long before we close schools.”

In Connecticut, most municipalities are considered “red alert” zones for having 15 or more daily cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period.

However, Connecticut uses 25 daily cases per 100,000 people over 14 days as the leading indicator for when schools should switch to remote learning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also revised its stance on in-person learning, removing two documents from its website that claimed children are at a lower risk of contracting and spreading the illness.

While some Connecticut school districts have switched to remote full remote learning for an extended period of time as COVID cases have increased in their communities, Gottlieb recommended the approach taken by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

In Rhode Island, students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will continue in-person classes, while high schools will have limited in-person instruction and recreation venues will be closed through at least Dec. 13.