As schools progress, many parents wonder how to safely send their children back to class. My colleague Tara Parker-Pope answered some frequently asked questions.
How can children go back to class safely during a pandemic?
Surprisingly, schools have not been a major driver of the spread of Covid, especially when preventive measures have been taken. A combination of protections — masking indoors, keeping students at least three feet apart in classrooms, keeping students in separate cohorts or “pods,” washing hands and encouraging regular testing, and quarantine — have been effective. The US bailout has also allocated $122 billion to help school districts pay for safety measures, and the CDC has allocated $10 billion for testing.
What are the risks of Covid-19 and the Delta variant for children?
All in all, the news is reassuring. New research suggests that the Delta variant may cause more serious illness in adults, but it is not known whether the variant puts children at greater risk. Compared to adults, children diagnosed with Covid-19 are more likely to have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, and much less likely to develop a serious illness, be hospitalized or die from the illness. Of the approximately 3.5 million cases of Covid-19 in children in the US, 519 have died from Covid-19 (less than 0.015 percent).
What should parents do if their school district doesn’t have a mask policy?
The CDC has said mask mandates in schools are associated with a reduction in the incidence of Covid-19 by about 20 percent. But even in schools with mask mandates, child compliance is never 100 percent. Parents in school districts without mask mandates should learn what other steps are taken, including regular tests and ventilation measures. Parents can ask their children to wear masks in schools, but masking is much less effective if most children don’t.
What precautions can we take at home to reduce the risk of having a child?
The most important step is to vaccinate everyone in the family as soon as they are eligible. This reduces the risk of a child becoming infected at home and protects family members if a child brings the coronavirus home from school. In addition, everyone in the family should get flu shots this fall and make sure other vaccines are up to date. Paying attention to community transmission and vaccination rates and wearing masks in high-risk environments can also help.
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