PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — College campuses are being forced to go online as COVID-19 cases rise with the return to school and now comes concern about K-12 students as their classes resume.

But Dr. David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and a CBS Contributor says the concern is understood but, “We know how to stop this virus and we can go back to a new normal way of life is we do that. And its wearing a mask and social distancing. They work. There is no question having a vaccine and an effective treatment are the next level which will enable us to de-mask and socialize things we dreamed of for the last six months. But I do think we can go back to school and some business life and open our economy if we do it right. The data is there we know what to do but getting people to do it is difficult because everything has been politicized.”

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Despite there being no vaccine yet, and no real proven treatment, Dr. Agus tells KDKA’s John Shumway that some schools can safely open their doors with the proper mitigation.

“It really depends on where you live. What neighborhood. It’s not a county, it’s not a state issue, it’s your neighborhood. If there are low positive case rate numbers then its probably safe to be back in a classroom wearing a mask social distancing and having in person classes cause our children need that.”

How low does the positivity rate need to be? “I think low single digits and trending downwards certainly makes sense to start to do some in person schools.”

Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway reports:


Dr. Agus says the possibility of a spike is something to watch out for.

“You certainly can see a spike if kids gets together like they used to interact, which is all getting together at close distances and playing together. If you wear mask and separate the kids and educate them we all want to be in school this is the way we do it. This virus is spread by droplets, you block those droplets with masks. You block those droplets with a mask you will not get virus spread. So we can do this safely.”

As for predictions of a vaccine being available soon, Dr. Agus tells Shumway that he has been watching the progress closely and says there are four vaccines going through trials with 30,000 patients each.

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“One of the vaccines is the vaccine from Oxford University which started in a stage three clinical trial. That clinical trial will come due at some time in the fall and it can be filed in the United States for early approval. To me its encouraging its optimistic and I think we’ll have a vaccine in the fall.”

But having a viable vaccine and getting it injected into the population are two separate topics.

Dr. Agus says, “We in the US did at risk manufacturing. So the US Government made contracts to make these vaccines. They are making four of these vaccines in large quantity. They did this several months ago so the production is underway with the hope they will be all be positive.”

The idea being if the vaccine turns out to be effective it has already been produced and can be immediately dispersed to the population.

Dr. Agus says with that kind of advance action once a vaccine is good to go, “Over a period of six months we’ll be able to vaccinate most of the country.”

Health Care workers and first responders will get the first priority.

Dr. Agus told KDKA that he anticipates the most vulnerable population and teachers would be next.

But getting a vaccine ready is only part of the puzzle. Dr. Agus says there is also a vast need for the supplies to administer the vaccine.

Needles, syringes and everything else that is needed must also be mass produced.

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So with that timeline in mind, Dr. Agus says leadership is needed on all levels now to get the population to understand the importance and comply with masking up and always staying socially distant.