Will schools reopen before semester ends? Georgia Southern pandemic expert can give perspective

Will schools reopen before semester ends? Georgia Southern pandemic expert can give perspective

March 31, 20202 min read

While education has moved into homes across the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are wondering if the shutdowns will actually help stop the spread of the disease.

Isaac Chun-Hai Fung, Ph.D., a digital health expert and infectious disease epidemiologist at Georgia Southern University, said school closures can delay the peak of the outbreak, reduce the amount of cases and decelerate the spread of the virus. 

Fung was a part of a study in 2015 that modeled a potential flu pandemic. The study showed that delaying the spread of a virus can give health care professionals more time to come up with vaccines and other treatments, as well as giving the system time to brace itself for the onslaught of patients.

“The key message of my paper is not necessarily how quickly we shut down schools,” Fung told Rolling Stone. “It is the duration of school closure that matters. Whenever we relax social distancing measures, we will see a bounce-back of the cases, unless we are able to completely block all transmission chains and have driven the case number to zero — i.e., extinction of the virus, as in the case of SARS in 2003.”

While some think opening schools and other public places would benefit the economy, Fung said doing so could leave the country vulnerable.

“To save the U.S. economy, we must control this disease first,” Hung said to Rolling Stone. “That is what China is going to achieve — even if they have already suffered a great deal economically due to COVID-19. That is why (Narendra) Modi asks the whole of India to stay home for three weeks. That is also what Boris Johnson asks the British people to do now. The Americans should take heed.”

Fung analyses social media data for public health surveillance and health communication and uses digital technologies for public health interventions. He investigates the transmission of communicable diseases with a focus on respiratory infections and environmentally transmitted infections. He applied a variety of methods, from classical statistical methods to machine learning and mathematical modeling, to address public health problems and to provide solutions to policymakers. He is especially interested in assisting public health agencies in their responses to public health emergencies. 

Fung is available to speak with media regarding this topic — simply reach out to Georgia Southern Director of Communications Jennifer Wise at jwise@georgiasouthern.edu to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Isaac Chun-Hai Fung
    Isaac Chun-Hai Fung Professor

    Dr. Isaac Chun-Hai Fung is a digital health expert and an infectious disease epidemiologist.

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