We’re entering the third school year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After an abrupt end to the 2019-20 school year, most districts opted to start the 2020-21 academic year with remote learning, limited sports and very little in-person interaction for kids.
I never thought we’d still be dealing with this dilemma for a third academic year, but in order to have a smooth 2021-22 school year, a subcommittee of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force made up of pediatric experts and school leaders developed guidelines for a safe return to school, based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We all appreciate that in-person learning is critical, and our priority is keeping kids in school, safely and consistently. The delta variant, which is prevalent throughout the metro area, differs from the COVID-19 virus seen last winter, however. Younger children are more likely to get the illness and be sicker. Like last year, they are also more likely to be asymptomatic carriers who can transmit COVID-19 even if personally symptom-free.
Anyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. It’s a matter of personal health and population protection. Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available now for anyone 12 years of age and older and should be available sometime early this winter for everyone older than age 5. To easily schedule your vaccination, visit mercy.net/movaccine.
Mitigation strategies are critical to maintain safety this school year. Schools should continue to follow social distancing recommendations, and everyone should practice frequent and thorough hand-washing. If students or staff are sick, they should stay home and, if recommended by their physician, be tested for COVID-19.
Everyone older than age 2 should wear a face covering when indoors. Wearing of face coverings will reduce the transmission of disease, keep children in school and reduce the need for them to quarantine, thus keeping parents at work and reducing the chance of your children becoming seriously ill.
If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in regard to children, there’s an excellent podcast that can answer your questions and reassure you as to the safety of the vaccine. The Pretty Good Parents podcast was developed and produced by Drs. Karen and Jack Hopkins, two Mercy Clinic pediatricians in Lebanon, Missouri. The series discusses a variety of topics of interest to parents at all stages in an understandable and relatable format. Listen now at prettygoodparents.com.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.