With many schools opening their doors back up on August 1, another school year is upon our kids. This marks the third consecutive school year with COVID-19, and, for most families, this is becoming the new normal. Health and school officials continue to moderate and adapt to changing health recommendations and learning conditions by keeping children safe, but with all new school years comes a new COVID surge. But what makes this school year different, and how are things continuing to evolve? There are still common practices that families with children should continue to follow and take into consideration.
COVID-19 Cases So Far
At the end of the week of August 4, 2022, almost 97,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The number of cases in children increased with the peak of Omicron but luckily has leveled back out to about what they were a year ago, on August 5, 2021, when 94,000 child cases were reported. But what’s different about last year versus this year?
Since October 29, 2021, the FDA has given the go-ahead for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to children ages 5 through 11. This authorization was made through a multitude of testing and saw a 90.7% effectiveness rate. As of August 3, 2022, the AAP saw as many as 900,000 children under the age of 5 and 10.4 million children ages 5-11 with the vaccine. The vaccination process is far from over, however. With these numbers alone, the number of children under 5 years of age who have had a vaccine covers only 5%. For 5-11-year-olds with a vaccine, this only covers 37%.
Keeping Children Safe During the 2022 School Year
It’s critical that our children are still able to develop interpersonal skills in person, but this must be done under safe conditions during another school year with COVID-19 present. Furthermore, COVID-19 is not the only illness present. As our children congregate once more in schools, the passage of illnesses will be common, such as common colds, cases of flu, or other respiratory illnesses. Remember where your nearest COVID testing center is and follow instructions on handling treatment to protect your child and others.
Tools to Keep Your Children Safe
Keeping children safe this school year is of the utmost importance. There are many things to be done to keep your children and others safe and in school this school year. Some are common practices, while others are actions you can take.
As the FDA has permitted vaccinations for children ages 5 through 11, it’s important now more than ever to get children fully vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. The AAP recommends getting children vaccinated, even if they have recovered from the illness. Fully vaccinated children can spend more time in school, playing sports, participating in extracurricular activities, and making friends, which is good for their physical and mental health.
Most states have ended mask mandates in public places, but that does not mean schools have ended this requirement. According to the CDC, schools have the choice of whether or not to require mask usage. Mask usage is “not recommended for those younger than two years old and may be difficult for very young children or for some children with disabilities who cannot safely wear a mask,” but otherwise, wearing masks is still recommended. Masks should be worn correctly and consistently if they are to be required to prevent the spread of COVID. It’s important to stay in contact with your child’s pediatrician if:
- You need help choosing a mask, or
- You have concerns your child cannot wear a mask.
Keeping children safe with physical distancing is still a valuable tool school administrators can use. It is recommended students remain 3 feet apart within classrooms if possible. Furthermore, schools should utilize outdoor space for extracurricular activities such as band, gym, and other activities where multiple students are involved and can be spread out.
While it’s important that schools follow COVID testing protocols, especially those outlined in the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools, families should also test regularly for COVID. Schools can do screening tests to identify those who are contagious before symptoms appear, but families can also look for local COVID-19 testing sites or find a mobile testing facility. Mobile COVID Testing offers speedy service and can come to you. Better yet, we can come to your school. Book an appointment online today.