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Back-to-school in 2021: Ensuring the safety and well-being of children

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The United States is a large country with disparities in COVID-19 immunization rates and incidence between states — and even within them. Now, the fast spread of the highly infectious Delta variation is confounding our understanding of how well vaccinations protects us from infection.

If you're a parent, you're undoubtedly wondering about how COVID-19 will influence the back-to-school season, regardless of where you reside. What will the first few weeks and months of the school year be like? How flexible will we have to be? Health guidelines for the United States, as well as state and municipal regulations, will continue to evolve.  We'll go through the current guidelines for keeping schools and children safe when students return to classes in the coming weeks and explain what families can do outside of school to further reduce the risk of infection.

National recommendations for safe schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States both recommend that :

Regardless of vaccination status, all staff and students above the age of two who are able to securely mask should do so inside.

Anyone above the age of 12 should get vaccinated.

Undergoing preventive measures in schools by keeping at least three feet between people when possible, better ventilation, frequent hand-washing, and staying home when sick.

If exposures occur in the school, schools should maintain active protocols to contact-trace, isolate, and quarantine impacted children and staff.

What is driving these recommendations?

Educators and health experts believe that having students return to school full time, in-person learning should be prioritized, avoid the enormous impact of the missed in-person school on children’s psychological and academic well-being. Safety for teachers, schools staffs and students is of utmost priority.

Scientific evidence shows that COVID-19 transmission inside schools was very low when layered measures were implemented in schools before vaccinations were available.

Many schools are unprepared to monitor staff and students vaccination status, and some employees and pupils over the age of 12 are still unvaccinated.
Students under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, layered measures should be used to safeguard these students, as well as immunocompromised students and staff.


The CDC modified its recommendation that fully vaccinated students and staff did not need to wear masks when new information about breakthrough infections with the Delta type of SARS-CoV-2 became known. This is because in a recent epidemic caused by the Delta variety, identical levels of the virus that causes COVID-19 were found in both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons who were sick. While research continues to demonstrate that current vaccinations are very successful in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Delta variant infections, vaccinated persons may be able of infecting others if they become infected.

There are different protective measures that might differ from community to community?

Even within the same town, policies recommending masks in schools may vary.

Immunization rates within school communities may vary based on the demographic and ages of kids served by that school environment, just as community vaccination rates vary.

COVID-19's geographical spread varies and will continue to change over time. Currently, the CDC recommends that even those who have been vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in regions where the virus is spreading rapidly or widely, as shown on these maps.

How can you keep your child and family safe?

Encourage everyone who has not gotten the vaccine to get vaccinated.  Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing infection, particularly serious infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The more people who get vaccinated, the less likely will new variant of the virus develop. If you are concerned about vaccinations, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns.

Even if you've been vaccinated, consider wearing a mask in public places, especially if you reside in an area with significant or high community transmission, as described above.

If your child has been vaccinated, make sure they understand the precautions that need to be taken to keep themselves and others safe, as well as why it is important to follow these guidelines.

If your child is not yet vaccinated, discuss the need of wearing a mask indoors, practice excellent hand hygiene by always washing your hands, and staying at a  distance from others when possible.

Talk with your family about the necessity of remaining at home and isolating yourself from others if you are sick, even if the symptoms are mild. Discuss any probable symptoms with your doctor, and if required, be tested for COVID-19.


Disclaimer:

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.

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