City officials stress importance of social distancing among children

City officials stressed the importance of social distancing among student-aged children

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus through social distancing, city and health officials say parents need to find a way to keep their kids from leaving home to hang out with friends.

“They’re still socializing, they are still hanging out in someone’s basement," said Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the NYIT College Of Osteopathic Medicine at A-State. “They’re hanging out in a park somewhere or someplace like that socializing and unknowingly passing the virus back and forth.”

Speights is also Jonesboro’s medical director and said the coronavirus is serious, and everyone needs to treat it as such.

Abby Ryan is a student at Arkansas State University. After she and her roommates finish their homework, they go out to Craighead Forest Park for fresh air and to let their dogs play.

“We are just out here enjoying the weather and walking around and having fun out here," Ryan said Monday afternoon.

She said she is taking precautions by trying to keep 6 feet between her and others. But, she says she’s not living her life in fear.

“I’m really not scared," Ryan said. “If it happens, it happens. It is what it is.”

Statements like those concern city officials.

“This younger generation is not immune to it," Speights said.

He wants to put early information released on the coronavirus to rest, especially thoughts that only older individuals would be affected.

“I think, to be honest with you, that sent a message to middle-age and even the younger generation that ‘I don’t really have to worry about this, it’s not going to really affect me,’" Speights said. “That has since changed.”

With that change, he said people 21 years old and younger must also buckle down.

“They may not even know they are sick of the virus itself and they may not ever show signs of the virus itself and they go back home to their families and now all of a sudden they are passing this virus back and forth," Speights said.

On Monday, April 6, the governor announced the end to all learning in the physical classroom for the remainder of the school year.

That’s something Dr. Speights says students shouldn’t use as an excuse to let loose.

“They may be treating this like an extended spring break or an early summer break, that’s not the case," Speights said. “I would encourage parents to help us police this because this could seriously make a difference in how people get infected by this disease.”

Region 8 reached asked Mayor Harold Perrin if there was a plan to impose a curfew to keep kids home during certain hours.

The mayor’s office released a statement saying in part:

“The mayor has been looking into options of a juvenile curfew, and we have been in contact with Arkansas Municipal League attorneys as well as our city attorney to see if we can legally do that."
Office of Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin

Meanwhile, Perrin is urging everyone to keep their distance and wear masks.

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