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Health & Science
WKSU is looking for the answers to the questions you have about Ohio in a project we call "OH Really?" It's an initiative that makes you part of the news gathering process.

Plan for Your Thanksgiving Bubble and for Schools to Go Remote. OH Really?

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Jeff St. Clair
/
WKSU
Officials with both Summit County Public Health and the Cleveland Clinic say they're concerned about community spread over Thanksgiving, which could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases by mid-December.

With coronavirus cases increasing in Ohio, our "OH Really?" team is answering your questions. This week many of you are wondering about Thanksgiving and COVID-19.

Enter The Bubble
Our first question, which came in anonymously, is about “The Bubble.” What is it, and who is included? I asked Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease specialist with the Cleveland Clinic.

“We certainly have a couple of different definitions: you've got your own household -- and those are the people that live within your house. And those are people that you will, hopefully, be able to interact with and not necessarily need to wear a mask around.”

Your bubble may also include people outside your immediate household, but people with whom you are still regularly interacting. "It may be close family that's in the same neighborhood, your children may be doing virtual school together," Englund said.

"So we'd like to limit that bubble to 10 people or less, just so that there's less chance of somebody bringing COVID into that bubble. It's a decision that the two families need to make to come up with this set of rules so that you can make sure that everybody in that group is doing everything they can to keep that group healthy.”

How are people contracting coronavirus?
Our next question, also anonymous, is ‘what are the most common ways people are contracting coronavirus?’ For the answer, we asked Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

“What we're seeing -- from just identification of the individuals when they tell us where they've been and who they've been with -- many of them will say, ‘well I went to dinner with four of my friends. We sat together, we ate dinner and we went home.’ They had their masks off the whole time. They were not six feet apart and then -- when we call to make the initial investigation or contact tracing -- they say, ‘three of us now have COVID. That was our only exchange.’”

“A lot of what we're talking about here is, we find out that these individuals -- whether it be a sleepover, playing video games, a pick up basketball game, baby shower, wedding funeral -- we're finding or getting multiple cases out of [those]. So it's a pretty good indication that's where the spread occurred.”

What happens in two weeks?
Skoda and Dr. Englund both agree that with Thanksgiving coming up, people need to be extra cautious.

“I'm very concerned about two-and-a-half weeks from now and what the hospitals and clinics are going to be looking like. People will have been loosening up their guard, getting together in social situations and family situations, and getting sick. And I'm really concerned we're going to be in trouble about two weeks from now when a lot of people start to show symptoms from this. We've got a really look at this as an important decision about whether one single get together is really that important that you're willing to risk the health and lives, potentially, of those people that you're sitting down to dinner with.”
“If you do choose to get together with others, decide on the rules ahead of time. Are you guys going to be socially distancing when you're sitting in a room talking together? Are you going to be wearing masks? How will you serve food? Or is everybody going to bring their own individual food and just simply sit in the dining area together -- but not be passing around the plates?”

“These are all very important discussions that I think need to be had ahead of time. The CDC website has a lot of very good information about how to hold Thanksgiving get togethers safely. For my family, we're going to be doing it over zoom. It's the first time we've had to do that, but boy, I'm not going to risk anybody in my family getting sick for one single holiday.”

photo of Akron Public Schools, Glover Community Learning Center
Although APS had planned to allow some students who needed it to return for in-person help after Thanksgiving, that plan is on-hold due to the surging number of coronavirus cases in Summit County.

Closing schools?
School districts are rethinking in-person learning as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge. Akron Public Schools had planned to implement a “remote plus” plan to open buildings at the end of the month for some site-based supports for students in need. But Superintendent David James is pausing that plan because of the rapid increase in cases.

Skoda says she would not be surprised if more K-12 schools follow suit after Thanksgiving.
“I think they’re starting to look at this and ask, ‘is it worth it?’ We’ve encouraged each district to look at their community spread and to look at the number of children and staff they have out and then try to make a decision based on their individual situation. Because each district really is individual.
“Some of these districts have a lot of space, they have new buildings, they can bring kids in, they can keep them six feet apart. Others are far more space-constrained. Akron Public’s decision to stay remote was because they don’t have a place to put 20,000 kids. Even if half of them went online, they still don’t have a place to socially distance 10,000 kids.”
Several other Summit County districts have remained on a hybrid schedule, and one -- Coventry Local -- is going remote for the week after Thanksgiving.

You can ask your coronavirus question here for “OH Really?,” WKSU’s podcast which makes you part of the reporting process.

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