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School board VP says doctors pushing for schools to reopen don't face as much COVID danger as teachers — and gets pummeled for her words


Many doctors reportedly wanted the vice president's resignation, removal, or censure for her comments

Doctor receives first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Southfield, Michigan, Dec. 15, 2020 (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

A Michigan school board member is facing backlash for declaring that doctors who are pushing for schools to reopen don't face as much coronavirus danger as teachers.

What are the details?

More than 350 doctors signed a letter urging the Ann Arbor school board to reopen in-person learning — but Jessica Kelly, the board's vice president, took the doctors to task for their position, the Detroit News reported.

At a Wednesday board meeting, she said the doctors were "positioning themselves as experts in education administration," the paper noted.

"Not a single doctor who has signed any letter this year is willing to do themselves what they're demanding of our teachers," Kelly added, according to the News. "You will never find an unvaccinated doctor simultaneously addressing 10 or 20 or 30 patients, even through well visits, in a closed room for seven hours straight wearing only a cotton mask."

Given what doctors have gone through for nearly a year treating COVID-19 patients, Kelly's words were not taken well.

Dr. Kimberly Monroe — a pediatrician and assistant professor at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan's health system — told the paper that many doctors who signed the letter recommended Kelly's resignation, removal or censure.

"I was really shocked when I heard what she said," Monroe added to the News. "My assumption is she probably didn't mean to sound that way. But the truth is you're at a board meeting, you're a trustee, and words are important."

What is Kelly saying now?

Kelly issued a statement to the News on Monday saying her words were meant for "a specific set of individuals who have been outspoken in their demands to reopen school buildings without regard to the complexities of doing so."

"I never intended to convey anything other than gratitude for the bravery and expertise of our medical community working in their various specialties during the pandemic, and for anything short of that I apologize," she added, according to the paper.

What did the board decide?

The school board at last week's meeting did not commit to a return date for in-person learning, MLive reported.

Anything else?

Dr. Daniel Schneider — a Michigan Medicine pulmonologist and critical care physician who worked nearly exclusively with COVID-19 patients at the height of the pandemic last spring and continues to do so — has three children of his own in Ann Arbor Public Schools, the paper said.

But Schneider also signed the letter asking the board to reopen, the News reported, and added that peer-reviewed research and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed in-person learning poses low transmission risks.

"This community and this public school system that I have really grown to love has kind of become this enemy that we fought so hard to defend against at the beginning of the pandemic," Schneider said, adding that some of those who last spring urged others to follow the science are ignoring it now, the paper noted.

"It all comes down to this convenient disregard for science when you feel like it doesn't fit your agenda," he added, the News noted.

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