Letter to Community and Leaders

Nov. 13, 2020

Dear Kansas Citizens, Leaders, and Policymakers,
Education shapes the future of our children. School traditions and in person learning are in jeopardy as COVID-19 numbers increase in our community. We, as a collective group of physicians, psychologists, counselors, nurses, school administrators, school board of education members, and local community members, urge the community to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The local spread of COVID-19 is not only taxing our health care systems but is also crippling the ability of our schools to functionally operate in the most efficient and effective manner.
Our schools have worked incredibly hard to implement new processes and procedures to make schools as safe as possible for students and staff. Data is suggesting that these processes are working, and in-school transmission seems to be low relative to the transmission rates within the community. While data is showing that children are not affected by the virus at the same rate or severity of adults, our children rely on adults for their safety, health, well-being and education. As teachers and other school staff are affected by the virus, districts have little to no choice but to close their doors and shift to all remote learning modes. This is unfortunate for many reasons. Children benefit from being in school – where they receive quality education, adult support and supervision, warm meals, physical exercise, and consistent risk mitigation from COVID. Yes, schools are one of the few places where masking, social distancing, handwashing, disinfecting and contact tracing consistently occurs. Students are compliant during the school day hours with these on-site safety procedures, suggesting that schools are a safer environment than the outside community. 

Still, cases within our schools have increased as our community has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. We have seen school closures and more remote education due to COVID-19 cases in schools and the inability to safely staff school sites. In order to provide safe on-site learning for our students and staff, we need your help. Adult behaviors within the community have been a contributing factor to the increase in community transmission indicating that this upward trend can be reversed with responsible action. We know that risk mitigation works. We are asking you to take action within your own circle of influence to reduce the rapid rise of COVID-19 in Kansas. 

This action may very well preserve our ability to keep the schools open, thus affording our students a quality education and our teachers a safe work environment.

Please show your support for students and teachers by pledging to:
  1. Wear a mask when in public places, your workplace, and when around others outside of your immediate household contacts.
  2. Maintain social distancing – at least 6 feet – from others outside of your immediate household.
  3. Avoid large gatherings of people.
  4. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  5. Do not leave your home if you are sick or not feeling well.
  6. Opt for restaurant take-out instead of in-person dining and store pick-up instead of in-store shopping.
  7. Encourage your friends and family to also participate in these risk mitigation strategies.

If you are a community leader, please:

  • Use your position and influence to advocate that individuals, businesses, community organizations follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
  • Help our community develop innovative ways to buffer the harms that COVID-19 has caused students in our community.

If you are a policymaker, please:

  • Work together to develop and pass enforceable public policy that can help reduce COVID-19 transmission in our community.

We invite you to join with us in prioritizing the education of children. A strong educational system is crucial for the short- and long-term recovery of our community. Please help us decrease our community burden of COVID-19 and prioritize on-site education and the physical, social and emotional benefits that schools provide to our youth, the future of our community.


Kansas COVID Workgroup for Kids:
Jennifer Bacani McKenney, M.D., FAAFP, Bacani/McKenney Clinic; Wilson County health officer; Fredonia.
Lindsay Byrnes, M.D., MPH, medical director, Finney County Health Department; pediatric hospitalist, KUSM-W; Garden City.
Kristina Darnauer, M.D., FAAFP, Rice County District Hospital; medical consultant, Rice County Health Department; Lyons.
Brent Duran, D.O., MPH, KUSM-W Med-Peds hospitalist, Med-Peds Residency associate program director; director of internal medicine education, Wesley Medical Center; Wichita.
Lisa Gilmore, M.D., FAAP, immediate past president KAAP, KU Medical Center; Kansas City.
K. Allen Greiner, M.D., MPH, director of research, Family Medicine Dept., KU Medical Center; chief medical officer, Wyandotte, County; Kansas City.
Kari Harris, M.D., FAAP, director, Section of Adolescent Medicine, KUSM-W Pediatrics; Wichita.
Gretchen Homan, M.D., FAAP, pediatrician, KUSM-W Pediatrics; President-Elect, KAAP; Wichita.
Melissa Hopper, PsyD, clinical psychologist, KUSM-W Pediatrics; Wichita
Kimber Kasitz, BSN, RN, NCSN, director of health, Homebound and 504 Services, USD 259; President, Kansas School Nurses Organization; Wichita.
Stephanie Kuhlmann, D.O., FAAP, Pediatric Hospitalist Division director, KUSM-W; pediatric medical director, Wesley Children’s Hospital; Wichita.
Brian Murrison, LMSW, school counselor, USD 484, Fredonia.
Kelli Netson-Amore, Ph.D., ABPP, director of neuropsychology, KUSM-W Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Wichita
Philip Newlin, M.D., FAAP, chief medical officer, AMG Ascension Via Christi; Wichita.
Brian Pate, M.D., FAAP, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, interim vice chair of Population Health, KUSM-W; Wichita.
Scott Pauly, M.D., FAAFP, Reno County medical consultant, Hutchison Clinic; Hutchison.
Rebecca Reddy, M.D., FAAP, founder and managing partner of Redbud Pediatrics LLC; Wichita.
Abbey Rupe, M.D., FAAP, Salina Family Healthcare Center, Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency; Salina.
Beth Schutte, BSN, RN, NCSN, district nurse, USD 261; Haysville.
Amy Seery, M.D., FAAP, Pediatric Section Chair, Ascension Via Christi; Faculty, Via Christi Family Medicine Residency, KUSM- Wichita, Dept of Family and Community Medicine; Wichita.
Cari Slothower, school counselor, USD 305, Salina.
Paul Teran, M.D., FAAP, pediatric hospitalist, Inpatient Education director, KUSM-W Pediatrics; Wichita.
Suzi Thien, retired Executive Director of Sunlight Children’s Advocacy and Rights Foundation, school counselor, Andover.