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CDC director: Keeping kids out of classroom could be worse than sending them back

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield visited Charlotte Monday and talked about why he's in favor of opening schools this fall.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During a visit Monday to Charlotte, Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield said he supports sending students back to the classroom. 

"Seven million children in this nation get their mental health assistance in school. Many students get their breakfast and lunch in school," Redfield said while standing alongside Mecklenburg County officials Tuesday. "Schools are really important for mandatory reporting of child abuse or sexual abuse. Obviously, the socialization that occurs in schools."

He said the virus has caused few deaths in kids and protecting teachers who may be vulnerable will be key in reopening schools.

“My analysis of this on the public health scale is way in favor of reopening schools face to face and these kids can get the education they deserve,” he said.

Mecklenburg County leaders agree, and for significant reasons.

From March 16 to May 1, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools alone distributed 1 million meals to kids who rely on school for food. 

RELATED: CMS providing free meals for kids this summer

"I'm totally in support of what Dr. Redfield has just said. We are concerned about the health and welfare of our children who don't go back to school. I do believe there's real reason for them to be in school,” Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said.

Teachers are the number one reporters of abuse or neglect, Nicole Taylor with Congregations for Kids told WCNC Charlotte's Chloe Leshner earlier this month. Calls to report abuse have gone down 40% since March.

RELATED: Calls to report abuse have gone down 40% since March, but that doesn't mean it’s not happening.

Mecklenburg County officials said Monday ensuring kids can get back in the classroom in any capacity will require the community to step up.

"We need everyone to help us get our children back in school, whether you have children or not," said Harris. "Again, we want to appeal to our community to do the things you know you need to do. Wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing."

Dr. Redfield also said if everyone wore a mask for the next 6 weeks, the country could “drive this pandemic into the ground.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper will announce Tuesday guidelines for whether students in the state's public schools will return to classrooms or virtual education in the upcoming school year amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

RELATED: North Carolina governor to announce back to school plan

The announcement, which is expected at 3 p.m. Tuesday, will guide public K-12 schools, which ended their spring classes online over coronavirus health concerns.

South Carolina State Board of Education will meet Tuesday morning. Some South Carolina school districts have already made local decisions.

The Rock Hill Schools Board of Trustees approved a plan Monday for an alternating, in-person classroom schedule. 

Last week, school districts in Clover and Fort Mill announced their reopening plans for the upcoming year.

The president of North Carolina’s largest teacher advocacy group questions whether schools will be safe enough to return for in-person instruction.

“COVID is a real thing,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “Our educators have a lot of anxiety and fear around the potential of going back into school buildings.”

In South Carolina, a survey from SC for Ed, an organization that advocates for teachers, found that over 42% of teachers polled are at an increased risk for severe illness if they were to contract the coronavirus.,

RELATED: 26-year-old Charlotte woman warns others to take virus seriously after battling it for a month