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Medical advice for School in the Time of Covid-19

When school opened last month, many of us sent our kids back in with mixed feelings, ranging from nervousness to optimism. Regardless of where anyone fell in the spectrum, going back to full-time, in-person school last month was a major shift. Even for the families who opted for in-person school as soon as it became available, having all the students of one of the nation’s largest school districts back in-person together was a definite adjustment.

With the Delta variant causing hospitals to become overwhelmed and Hillsborough District schools reporting escalating numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, many parents are wondering how they can best protect their families. We asked some experts, and here’s a brief roundup of some important answers:

On Masks:

Masks have been proven to work as a layer of protection and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). An infected but asymptomatic child who wears a mask to school can prevent spreading COVID-19 to another student, who may go home and infect vulnerable people in their home.

“Both the AAP, CDC and I agree that masks should be required in schools for all teachers, staff, and students regardless of vaccination status. This is to protect the child but also their peers,” says Mona Amin, M.D., Pediatric Associates. “Masking is the easiest thing we can do to help stop the spread of this virus. Masking is the easiest thing we can do to assure our children can enjoy an in-person learning environment they can benefit from.”

The most important criterion of your child’s mask is not whether it’s a cloth or disposable, it’s how well it fits. There should be no large openings at the side or under the chin.

On vaccinations:

The CDC has stated that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and they are free to anyone who wants to get one over the age of 12. The Pfizer vaccine is the one that is available to children of 12 and above, and the full benefits of the vaccine kick in two weeks after the second dose.

For those younger than 12, hope is on the way. Dr. Christina Canody, the Pediatric Service Line Medical Director with BayCare says she expects Pfizer to get complete (FDA) authorization —and that should come sometime in the next month or early September. “Right after that, it looks like they should have enough data to apply for emergency use in kids—somewhere in the less than 12 and down to somewhere around 2-5 years old,” she says. “I don’t know if it will go down to 2. They feel like at 5, they may have a little more data. We’re really hoping to have that no later than the first of October.”

On School:

Schools currently do not require quarantine if a student has been vaccinated and shows no symptoms. However, Dr. Allison Ford Messina, chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, says there are sensible precautions families can take to minimize spread. “Do not send your child to school if they are sick. Even if they have mild cold symptoms, discuss with their pediatrician to see if they need to be tested for COVID before sending to school. Continue to encourage handwashing. In households with children too young to be vaccinated, encourage the older members of the family to get vaccinated. Most children catch COVID from the adults around them. Be sure children are up to date on all of their other vaccines, including the yearly vaccine for influenza.”

*Originally published in our September 2021 Issue

Anu Varma Panchal
Anu Varma Panchal
Associate Editor Anu Varma Panchal has a master’s degrees in journalism and more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Iowa and Florida. She has lived in Florida for more than 10 years, and enjoys raising her two daughters in Tampa Bay. When Anu isn’t writing or editing for area publications, she’s busy driving her kids to all their music and dance activities. She volunteers regularly in her daughters’ schools and Parent Teacher Associations, and spent a wonderful two years immersed in local history as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay History Museum’s Collections department. Although her idea of the ultimate good time is usually found between the pages of a book, Anu also enjoys yoga, her book club, travel, theater and area food and music festivals.

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