HOW CAN KIDS SAFELY RETURN to SCHOOL CONSIDERING the DELTA VARIANT?
In mid-June when California relaxed many of its pandemic restrictions, life seemed to be heading toward something closer to normal. Indoor dining seemed safe without masks, movie theaters and theme parks were open, concerts (at least outdoors) were resuming, travel with some restrictions became more feasible. And, much to the relief of parents and kids, school would likely re-open for the coming academic year, with some, but manageable safety measures. Within a month, however, by mid-July the Delta variant began to have an impact, throwing many plans and expectations into doubt. What about plans to open schools more fully? ( https://nyti.ms/2VaQ8KC )
Here are some basic issues to consider:
- What is the risk of transmission in school? With basic safety measures, like masks and three-foot social distancing, the risk seems pretty low. If symptom screening, improved ventilation, smaller groups of students, and hand washing are added, then the risks are more manageable. Children under 10, seem to be less likely to transmit the virus compared to older children and adults.
- How does Delta change the equation? This variant seems to be about twice as transmissible as the original version of the virus. Communities with lower rates of vaccination have seen a substantial increase in infection, hospitalization, and death. This increase does translate into a greater risk of school outbreaks. The vaccines do protect against more severe forms of the virus, so that those people who do get ill will likely have a more manageable and tolerable form of the illness.
- What are current recommendations for schools? Everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will be safer if they wear a mask in school. Other safety measures listed above will also help substantially.
- What about elementary schools? These kids are too young to be vaccinated (under 12), though some clinical trials are taking place at this time. All the more reason for safety measures to be in place as fully as possible.
Los Angeles Unified Schools, as well as many other local school districts, are implementing these measures for the coming school year. If nothing else, the past 18 months have shown how children are impacted by being out of school, academically, socially, and emotionally. Helping them return to school – as safely as possible – is a high priority.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Telehealth sessions, and in-person session for fully vaccinated individuals, are available.
Copyright 2021 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.