With the fall semester rapidly approaching, primary schools across West Alabama County are rolling out various initiatives to safely reopen. Tuscaloosa City Schools, for instance, will be virtually taught for the first nine weeks, whereas the Tuscaloosa County School System will open to any students wanting to return to in-person instruction, a number that superintendent Keri Johnson estimates will exceed 12,500 students.

Strategies varies in each school system, but the Centers for Disease Control publicly recognized State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey Tuesday for the state of Alabama's exemplary plans to safely reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the praise, Mackey warned that with parents across the state focused on preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the threat of other diseases is going unaddressed.

In an interview with Townsquare Media News Director Don Hartley, Mackey said that due to the COVID-19 threat, parents are afraid to visit a a doctor and have their child vaccinated to prevent dormant diseases.

Vaccination rates in 2020 are down 30% compared to last year, he said.

"We’re very concerned that if this trend continues throughout the year, we could see a resurgence in diseases that we’ve stamped out," Mackey said.

The state's top education officer specifically mentioned several prominent diseases common in children, including measles, mumps, whooping cough and rubella.

"We'll get through this, but we cannot inadvertently create another healthcare crisis by not having children vaccinated," Mackey concluded.

With many US schools that have already reopened seeing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, it's still up in the air how these reopening plans will evolve in the coming months.

Listen to the full interview below:

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