SAN JUAN – The co-president of the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition, Daniel Colón Ramos, announced that the entity presented recommendations on plans to open schools and private colleges.
“The consensus of the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition is that children should be considered one of the vulnerable populations most affected by the pandemic. We recognize that the health of children is also affected by SARS CoV-2, but even beyond infections, social disruptions due to the pandemic have disproportionately affected this part of our demographics, ”explained Colón Ramos, in written statements. .
In this group of scientists from various disciplines that make up the Coalition, they expressed that there is consensus in the scientific community that the virtual education modules implemented during the pandemic are suboptimal, and that the pandemic has affected the academic achievement of children and their development. It is recognized that even before the pandemic there were disparities in access to educational resources in Puerto Rico, the pandemic has exacerbated these disparities in the context of virtual education, internet access, and the care that children need for their development.
“We recommend science-based public policy decisions aimed at benefiting this population in areas where they have been most affected, including their education, mental health and human development. As a society, we cannot continue conversations about reopening that benefit the adult population without having a serious, data-driven conversation about public reopening policies that benefit the development of our children, ”said Dr. Carmen Zorrilla, a member of the Coalition.
Therefore, it should be a priority to establish the conditions for the return of the face-to-face classes. It should be understood that the Coalition does not advocate a return to face-to-face classes at any cost, but rather the prioritization of resources for the implementation of science-based strategies that ensure a safe return to face-to-face classes in the context of the pandemic.
Members of the Coalition participated in the preparation of the document published by the Department of Health entitled “Protocol for the Surveillance of COVID-19” in the education sector of Puerto Rico in response and preparation to the opening of schools, and the Coalition also discussed this document with members of the Department of Health. “Our consensus is that the school opening protocols set out in this document prepared by the Department of Health are, in accordance with the scientific and health information that we have in February 2021, detailed and complete,” added Colón Ramos.
The Coalition recommends that the implementation of the opening protocol should be considered a pilot project to be closely monitored as the scientific and health information changes. They also emphasize that the protocol will be as effective as its implementation.
The Coalition urges that the development and implementation of the protocols be considered an interagency collaboration between the Departments of Health and Education with their challenges, but also their opportunities to establish close working relationships that persist even beyond the pandemic, to disease monitoring, such as influence. The Coalition recommends the creation of an interagency working group, with representatives from both Departments, to facilitate agile communication with a view to the shared goal of a safe reopening for schools in Puerto Rico.
“We present in this report additional and detailed recommendations to strengthen the protocols already presented. It is critical in the strategy to reopen the monitoring systems through the BioPortal of the Department of Health, the integration of data and the use of tests to aggressively and consistently monitor possible infections in schools, especially in asymptomatic patients but contagious. Our recommendations offer strategies on how to collaboratively implement these protocols for the benefit of the youth and Puerto Rican society. As the pandemic develops and the implementation of the protocols, the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition will issue additional recommendations to the Executive, the Department of Health, the Department of Education, and Puerto Rican society, ”added Dr. Zorrilla.
“The general community, parents, teachers, educators, school support staff, and individuals interested in the well-being of the school population, must be considered partners in the shared aspiration of a safe reopening for our children and our society. There must be communication plans, led by the Department of Health and the Department of Education, that guide the entire Puerto Rican society in behaviors that reduce the risk of contagion, particularly in the context of the participation of children in schools ”, Colón Ramos finished.