The delta variant and the classroom: Amarillo pediatrician offers tips to help keep kids protected | KAMR
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As the infectious delta variant becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 across the country, health experts are urging people to use what they believe is the best line of defense against the variant: the vaccine .
With the start of school fast approaching, there is a concern for a vulnerable group who is not eligible; children under 12 years old.
What should I know about the delta variant?
“There will be more children who get sick, and as we get more children sick, there will be more – even if the risk of them ending up in hospital is still small; there is still a risk of them ending up in the hospital,” says Dr. Bell, a Texas Tech Physicians pediatrician and associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine.
dr. Bell said it’s almost unthinkable that we won’t see a rise in cases once kids return to class, but it will also depend on where our curve is when classes start.
“It will be a bit of a question of whether school starts at the crest of the wave, or do we have room to go further up? My guess is we’re still going up, and it’s going to be hard to work out how much of that increase in cases is specific to the start of school. I don’t know, it would be hard to find out. But we will see the number of cases increase, just as we see the number increase when we stopped wearing masks,” said Dr. bell.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines when it comes to masks in the classroom, saying vaccinated teachers and students should not wear masks in school buildings. The CDC still recommends that schools maintain at least one meter of physical distance between students in classrooms.
Vaccinated teachers and students don’t have to wear masks in schools: CDC
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several guidelines, saying that everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask in schools — regardless of vaccination status.
“Universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement and compliance without the added burden of monitoring vaccination status,” said AAP.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks in schools for anyone over the age of 2, vaccinated or not
Both the CDC and the AAP also emphasize the importance of in-person classes.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning government agencies in Texas, including public school districts, from wearing masks. That order came into effect in June.
“Texans, not the government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government agencies. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ freedom to choose whether or not to mask,” Abbott said in a press release on May 18.
Gov. Greg Abbott says he won’t order mask mandate even as COVID-19 cases increase
“It is important that children go to school. This is not me telling people or parents to keep their child home from school,” said Dr. Bell. “School has so many vital signs that we don’t want kids to miss school, we want them to be in school, but we want them to be safe at school.”
So what’s the best way to protect your kids while they’re in class?
dr. Bell said it starts with parents getting vaccinated themselves, reducing the risk of their children being exposed.
The second tip that Dr. Bell gave is that parents encourage children to wear masks in places where there will be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
His third piece of advice is to be considerate of other children and other people.
“If we have a child who is sick, or if I am an adult who is sick, I have to get tested. I don’t just have to assume it’s allergies and going to school and potentially causing a complication for someone else,” said Dr. bell.
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dr. Bell said the risk of children ending up in ICU is low, but they’ve seen it, even in Amarillo.
For parents who are still hesitant to get the vaccine for themselves or their eligible children, Dr. Call this advice:
“The things we don’t know about COVID scare me a lot more, much more than the things we don’t know about the vaccine. I think you should be able to weigh risks, I think you should be able to look at it logically. And I think if you do that, you’re going to be on the side of realizing vaccination is what’s best for me and vaccination is what’s for my kids.”