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Teachers, parents most at risk for COVID-19 when students return to school, doctor says

In its updated guidelines, the TEA said parents can choose whether to send their kids to school in person or remotely.

AUSTIN, Texas — Dr. Payal Kohli, an internationally recognized cardiologist and leader in cardiovascular research and disease prevention, joined KVUE on July 7 to discuss COVID-19 and children going back to school.

The Texas Education Agency announced another round of updated guidelines for the fall semester and said parents can choose whether to send their kids to school on campus or remotely. Back in June, the TEA said it would not require masks or screenings at schools, but its guidelines have changed. Masks will be required while in school buildings across the state.

RELATED: TEA says it will ensure remote instruction is available to all; masks to be required at schools

Dr. Kohli told KVUE's Mike Rush she doesn't anticipate schools going back to "normal" right off the bat.

"Although I agree that it's really important to have a school environment for learning and for social development, I think we have to be extremely careful about how we open up our schools because this could have a huge impact on the virus and really facilitate the spread of the virus," she said. "So, it definitely can't be business as usual when we open up our schools, and at the very least, we're going to have to do staggered schedules, social distancing and masks."

The doctor explained adults are the ones more at risk for the virus with kids going back to school.

"Reports from the CDC actually tell us that kids are less likely to have the infection than adults," Dr. Kohli said. "So, the risk of opening schools is actually less to the kids themselves than it is to the adults that are working at the school, like the teachers, the staff and actually the parents who are coming there."

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Dr. Kohli explained a part of the decision is going to hinge on what the virus is doing in that area.

"We know that come fall, the viral activity is actually expected to increase. So it is challenging to make a decision today about what's going to happen in a month or in six weeks," she said. "We'll just have to keep a close eye on it. But if we do open schools, we'll have to be extremely careful because they could certainly contribute to the spread."

The Austin Independent School District said it will resume school on Aug. 18 with 100% virtual and 100% in-person learning options for students.

WATCH: Austin education leaders preparing for new kind of school year

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