COVID-19 will spread to schools in areas where there is community transmission, WHO official says

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(CNN) - COVID-19 will spread to schools if there is widespread transmission of the virus happening within a community, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said on Wednesday.

Ryan said that schools are "a microcosm of our society, of our community" and "a subset of people from our community."

"So if we have spread of the virus in our community and that spread is intense and is widespread, then that disease will spread to the school environment," he explained while during a social media Q&A.

"The disease may pass through children. It may find the child then that's less immune or has some compromise and can cause a more severe infection. Or it can also be brought to vulnerable grandparents or others. So, the way I would see it is that when you have intense transmission at community level, then we have to be careful about schools," Ryan added.

He also said school environments are very important to communities, as they act not only as a place where children receive an education, but also as a source of nutrition and safety "in areas that are not necessarily as safe socially for kids."

Schools "are very important centers within our societies and within our communities. So we have to do everything possible to bring our children back to school. And the most effective thing we can do to stop the disease in the community," Ryan added.

The comments come as many US school districts are deciding how — and if — to reopen schools for in-person learning this fall. Many major school districts are refusing to reopen, some even defying state guidelines, until coronavirus cases begin to drop.

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