With the new school year fast approaching, considerations of how to safeguard children from COVID-19 in the classroom are an increasingly frequent topic of discussion. On July 9, the CDC provided updated guidance that stresses the importance of effective precautions such as masking, physical distancing and excellent hand hygiene. It is also important for parents to consider the benefits of ensuring eligible students (ages 12 and over) are fully vaccinated to slow the spread of the Delta variant.
“The vaccines that are available are some of the most carefully evaluated and highly effective in our history. They are more than 99% effective in preventing COVID-19 fatalities and are highly effective for the Delta variant,” said Anurag Malani, MD, Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology, Antimicrobial Stewardship, and Special Pathogen Response for Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.
Dr. Malani stresses serious vaccine side-affects are extremely rare and communities that embrace vaccination and COVID-19 precautions have seen much lower infection rates throughout the past few months. In addition to being a leading authority on infection prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Malani is also a concerned father. “I have an eligible child who is fully vaccinated in preparation of the school year. As a health care professional and more importantly, as a dad, I understand that people have questions and worries. I would strongly urge parents to review the facts, discuss the benefits and concerns with your pediatrician or primary care physician before making a decision. I am anxiously awaiting authorization for my younger child to receive the vaccine.”
As new cases of the Delta variant continue to climb, the importance of keeping kids safe using a layered approach of precautions remains central to resuming classes. Please see these key CDC Back to School Safety Takeaways…
- Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
- Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
- Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
- In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.
- Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
- Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
- Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households and support in-person learning.
- Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).
To learn more, please see: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools