How did the delta variable change the risk of COVID-19 at school?

How did the delta variable change the risk of COVID-19 at school?

The delta variant is more transmissible than the version of SARS-CoV-2  that has been circulating for the past 16 months or so, which means it can spread faster in schools just as it does. Any other place. Although it doesn't appear to cause more severe illness (either in children or adults), Dr. Sean O'Leary, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says he's concerned that children may contract the virus. Going home to vulnerable family members, or the other way around, putting teachers and staff at risk. 

Delta's virus emergence reminds us that schools will need to be resilient as the virus continues to spread. Milestone points out that the dynamics of the epidemic change over time—vaccinated immunity may wane over time, people with mixed vaccination status increasingly communicate with each other. Fewer people taking precautions such as concealment or distancing (although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The new guidance might help change that.) "We have to keep up with the virus," Milestone says.

The best preventive method, of course, is mass vaccination. Most evidence indicates that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only vaccine allowed in the United States for children ages 12 to 15, is effective against the delta variant. Aside from vaccines, schools can help protect students, teachers, and staff by implementing "multi-layered" protective methods, including masks, social distancing, and ventilation, says Dr. William Razka, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. These efforts are significant to protect students under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated.

Can my child pass COVID-19 to someone else, such as family members or their teacher?

Children can transmit COVID-19 to other people, although the risk of transmission tends to be higher with older children, says Dr. Liz Whitaker, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Imperial College London. A study conducted in South Korea in the winter of 2020 on 5,706 patients with COVID-19 found that children under the age of 9 were less likely to spread the virus to other groups than children between the ages of 10 and 19, who appeared to spread the virus-like adults.

O'Leary says community-wide vaccination is the best way to reduce these risks. [the number of] cases in children reflect what's happening in the surrounding community," he says. "The most important thing to help schools succeed this year is to vaccinate everyone up to the age of 12." If schools practice multi-level mitigation techniques, O'Leary says, they should keep teachers at low risk of infection, especially if they have been vaccinated.

Parents can take steps to prevent outbreaks in schools, too. Whitaker urges families to keep their children at home if they seem to be doing well and consider making older children wear a mask even if they don't go to school — even if they are vaccinated — she says.

Can schools trigger a COVID-19 outbreak in my community?

In a study published in April in Pediatrics, researchers who studied North Carolina schools with 90,000 students and staff members found only 32 local infections at the school over nine weeks, while another 773 people were infected elsewhere in the community. However, it is essential to note that the schools studied for this paper practiced mitigation strategies such as blanket masking, 6-foot distancing, and monitoring for symptoms.

However, Milestone notes that schools "tend to be more conservative"  Schools are probably no more dangerous than other activities that many children already do, he says. "I would say that a child who wears a mask at school is less likely to bring [COVID-19] home from school compared to bringing them home from a Sunday school group or… a birthday party with ten other kids where they may not be masked."."

How can I prepare to return my child to school during the pandemic?

If your child is too young for a shot, vaccinating yourself is one of the best ways to protect them from getting COVID-19, as it reduces the risk of spreading the virus to other people. O'Leary says.

They should look closely at the mitigation measures their children's school put in place, including whether or not face masks are required, and call for more precautions. Regardless of school policy, it might be wise to talk to kids about wearing face masks. In general, says O'Leary, kids are "better than adults at wearing masks!"

 If your kids are 12 or older and qualify, get them vaccinated — and don't wait. Full-vaccinated people are not seen until two weeks after receiving a dose of Pfizer.

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