Back-to-School Task Force: Your Questions AnsweredPosted: August 19, 2021
We believe that kids should be in school, learning. For more than a year, Le Bonheur Children’s Back-to-School Task Force has worked alongside schools to help ensure that kids and teachers stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we recommend everyone wear masks indoors, social distance and follow basic hygiene practices during times of high community transmission. We know these recommendations work based on the results we witnessed last year from schools who used these tactics while they were in person learning.
With the new school year beginning, the pediatric experts from Le Bonheur and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center hosted a webinar to provide practical advice and answer questions from parents. We've summarized their answers on a variety of topics below.
The full webinar is also available to watch here.
Getting Back to the Basics
The panel began reviewing the basics: proper mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing techniques work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and should be utilized at home and in classrooms. More in depth, parents should think about multi-layer masks for children as part of their back-to-school supply list as well as reminding them to wash their hands with soap and water, in addition to hand sanitizer as the build-up of sanitizer residue can lower its effectiveness. This is especially important for our efforts to combat the now dominant Delta variant, which is more easily transmitted and more infectious than previous variants of COVID-19.
Symptoms to Look for
As students begin to head back to in-person or hybrid learning, it is important that parents and students are equipped to notice specific symptoms and know how to respond to them. The symptoms of the virus have presented similarly to the common cold or influenza virus, but specifically for the Delta variant, it is important look out for runny noses and/or sore throats. Don’t be alarmed if your child is sent home if he or she displays these symptoms, as schools are doing their best to keep their doors open and everyone safe. If your child, or anyone in the household, is experiencing these symptoms, they should get tested and limit contact with others.
Isolation is when you separate yourself or your child from others when infected. This includes those who are asymptomatic (tested positive but have no symptoms). Those infected should avoid contact with others as much as possible. If there are others in the household, designate a specific room and bathroom to be used and wear a mask at all times if leaving those designated rooms. Isolation should last 10 days from the date of the positive COVID-19 test or the onset of symptoms. If the patient experiences no symptoms and a full 24 hours of no fever after the 10 days, then the patient can return to a regular routine. If symptoms persist, continue to isolate. Immunocompromised patients should isolate for 20 days and speak with their doctors for further recommendations.
Quarantine should occur after exposure to limit transmission during the incubation process, as someone may be infectious at that time. The entire quarantine period is 14 days. Some caveats to these guidelines include:
- If after 14 days, no symptoms, then you can end your quarantine
- Get tested on the fifth day and if negative on the seventh then you can end your quarantine
- For the vaccinated population, if you are exposed and begin to experience symptoms, then enter quarantine and get tested.
- If vaccinated but exposed with no signs of symptoms, continue to wear a mask and social distance, but quarantine is not necessary.
- In the case of a parent taking care of an infected child, while the child is sick the parent is within an exposure period. Once the exposure period concludes, the parent then should begin their quarantine period to ensure no further transmission and spread take place.
Allergies or COVID-19?
To better equip ourselves to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19, our pediatric experts suggest parents provide children with their allergy controller medicine now as we enter allergy season. COVID-19 symptoms and allergies have parallel effects: sneezing, running nose, and sore throat. By decreasing the likelihood of sinuses being the reason for the symptoms, parents and children will be more inclined to get tested and follow isolation protocols if symptoms do occur after allergy treatment.
To help protect yourself and your families, the task force highly encourages those eligible for the vaccine to get vaccinated. Currently, Pfizer is the only provider with licensing for a vaccine for children under the age of eighteen. To ease the minds of parents who may feel the vaccines seemed rushed to production, the task force reiterates that the mRNA vaccines has been in development for years and the small percentage of side effects from the vaccines are greatly outweighed by the much larger percentage of effects that occur once contracting COVID-19. Having reservations in a time like this is only natural, but it is best to speak and weigh options with trusted and reputable professionals like your child’s pediatrician.
Schools and COVID-19 Protocols
Schools will be following the guidelines of their administrations and the state to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff and their families. Masking, sanitation and distancing will be the main ways schools will fulfill this commitment. Nurses or designated point people will be tasked with contact tracing and quarantine protocols in the case that someone does become infected while in school. Note that if your child is not feeling well, it is better to keep them at home and contact the school about the necessary steps instead of braving through it and possibly risking further infection.
It is also important to get vaccinated to further ensure the health and safety of ourselves and others. While these times may be uncertain and stressful, giving understanding and grace will help everyone better adapt to the on-going developments of the pandemic and the ways in which we respond to the virus. Children are extraordinarily resilient, but do take cues from parents and adults in their lives. Try to stay positive and respectful as everyone’s main goal is your child’s best interest and continued success.