SANTA MONICA, Calif. — As delta variant cases continue to rise each day, certain parents are growing increasingly concerned that public schools and LA County Public Health will no longer allow their students to return to in-person learning in the fall.
On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Houman Hemmati is developing drugs at this home office. They're mostly for the eyes, though the research scientist is working on a COVID-19 drug, too.
On Thursday, however, he wore his dad hat. The parent of two is seriously concerned that schools will be shut down again because of rising delta variant cases.
“I have to really consider things from two perspectives right, one is a parent, and the other one is an MD and my parent side wants my kids to be safest, right? It wants my kids not to become infected with anything, not to get sick," Dr. Hemmati said.
He said he looks at the medical evidence to help him determine if his 5 and 3-year-old are safe. With a zero percent COVID death rate in children under 17, according to the Public Health Department, Hemmati feels the safest place for his kids is actually at school, where there are regular temperature and symptom checks among vaccinated adults.
In fact, he said the devastating educational and emotional impacts of students having to learn from home far exceed the threat of them catching the delta variant.
He grew so concerned that he wrote all of this in a lengthy letter to LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, pleading that she doesn’t take any drastic measures and close schools, despite spiking cases.
"I realized that this is an opportunity for me to really speak out as a physician and as a concerned parent and tell her, ‘here’s why I think this is not a good idea.’ And there’s a lot of people who agree with me. My letter has made it public now. It’s present on quite a bit of social media sites and is getting a lot of commentary from other individuals who support what I said," Hemmati explained.
Dr. Ferrer swiftly responded to him saying the delta variant is a game changer, but she is not considering closing schools. Though Dr. Ferrer did update re-opening protocols for all K-12 schools in Los Angeles County Thursday, they focus primarily on indoor mask mandates and COVID testing recommendations.
LAUSD also announced a new requirement within its specific district that every student and staff must be tested for COVID weekly.
"There’s no consideration for closing schools," Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. "There’s an indoor masking requirement which will go a long way, towards reducing transmission of people who are possibly infected without any symptoms. You saw that there’s a long list of recommendations for schools.”
It’s a relief for Dr. Hemmati, for now. He said he and many other parents are still wary of what might happen in the future.
"We fear that she’s going to make decisions that are harmful and difficult to reverse," he said.
With his daughter set to start elementary school on August 19th, all he can do is keep checking the updated protocols until then.