OSAWATOMIE — The Osawatomie USD 367 school board is expected to approve a reopening plan for the district at its Aug. 10 meeting, and Dr. Jeff Dorsett said he would like the board’s decisions to be based on best available science.
“When you mix politics and science, you get politics,” said Dorsett, a local family physician and school board member. “It’s OK to disagree because we have different priorities and different risk tolerances, but let’s base our decisions on the best information available.”
Dorsett made those remarks during his COVID-19 presentation to other school board members, Superintendent Justin Burchett and the audience for the board’s special meeting Wednesday, July 29, in the Osawatomie High School library.
Dorsett said Miami County had 108 COVID-19 cases as of July 29.
“And it will continue to increase until we do something differently,” the doctor said.
Dorsett said Miami County is considered to be a moderate risk to community spread, based on the cases in the past seven days. Johnson and Franklin County are considered to be at higher risk or accelerated spread, and Kansas City, Mo., is at high risk of community spread.
“All areas are increasing in cases and are projected to continue to increase unless there is a change in public health habits, voluntary or by policy mandate,” Dorsett wrote in a handout he shared with the board and audience.
In his remarks Monday night, Dorsett said the death rate for COVID-19 is 2.7 deaths for every 1,000 cases.
“If everybody in Miami County got the COVID virus, it would kill about 95 people,” Dorsett said.
That would translate to 28 deaths in the Osawatomie school district, he said.
“If we did nothing, you could presume that about 70 percent of the people would get the virus over (a period of) one to two years,” he said. “It’s a new virus. It’s very contagious.”
The virus is so contagious that every individual that contracts COVID-19 could spread it to 2.5 other people on average. Until the rate of spread falls below one, cases will continue to climb locally and across the nation, he said.
One way to slow the virus is by wearing a mask, and it can be any type of mask, Dorsett said.
“Since spread is by droplets and aerosol (droplets) mainly, any mask covering the nose and mouth can help decrease the spread by up to 67 percent,” Dorsett said a current study shows. “A certain number of virus particles have to be transmitted, probably thousands, to cause infection and illness. The lower the ‘dose’ of virus particles, the less the illness.”
Children don’t get as ill because their immune systems are different, he said.
“Every infection is new to a kid whereas adults respond to an antibody, so I don’t get chicken pox because I have an antibody that’s chicken pox. Unfortunately, since this is a new virus, nobody started out this year with an antibody against COVID.”
Dorsett said evidence shows asymptomatic children can carry and spread the virus.
“Many people will say that deaths are over-reported. That now anybody that is getting something is being diagnosed with COVID,” Dorsett said. “That’s statistically not true.
“In the summer about 7,500 Americans die per day. In the winter about 8,000 Americans die per day — so it’s very predictable from year to year,” he said. “Since the COVID virus, about 10,000 people are dying per day, so 2,000 to 2,500 per day probably are attributed to COVID virus. Many deaths are probably underreported.”
Dorsett said people will say they don’t like being told what to do. If a person stops to think about it they will realize we get told what to do all the time, he said.
“People will say it’s not that much of a risk,” Dorsett said. “I have ridden or driven over one million miles in my 57 years, and I’ve never been in a collision. Guess what, when I get in my car today I’m going to put my seat belt on. We do things to lower our risk in life all the time.”
Dorsett provided several ways a person can lower their risk from COVID-19:
- Wash hands frequently and properly; keep your hands away from your face.
- Wear a mask when indoors away from home, near non-household contacts, or outdoors when social distancing is not possible
- Encourage all your family and friends to do the same.
- Get a flu shot this fall. It will decrease your risk of getting the flu, which is similar in symptoms to COVID-19. It will also boost your general immune system. It will minimize your cough and respiratory secretions.
- Spread factual information to your sphere of influence. Check sources carefully. Consult with trusted experts in public health, virology, epidemiology, and your own health care providers.
“The pandemic sucks. So we should all take a deep breath, outside preferably,” Dorsett said. “Give others some grace, especially a friend who disagrees with us. And suck it up.”
Every person can have a positive impact, Dorsett said.
“We all have the freedom to choose to do our very best — choose to be informed, and choose to do everything you can to limit the spread,” Dorsett wrote in his handout. “We want our schools to be as safe as possible.”