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Drew: As Schools Open, What Parents Need to Know About Delta Variant

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

School doors have begun to swing open around the country and specifically within our state. Roadways will again become congested with additional cars and buses traveling to the various school locations. Yes, this is a time of year many eagerly look forward to, both parents and students, but wait – isn’t there still a pandemic going on? The resounding answer is YES!

A pandemic that did not allow loved ones to personally share in-person the excitement of their fellow Olympians in Tokyo, Japan this summer. A pandemic which we read daily is making countries across the globe step back, rethink and begin to enforce new COVID-19 guidelines for public spaces and job sites.

A pandemic with the COVID-19 virus which has mutated yet again into a new Delta variant which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us is far more contagious and deadly, thus making our nation reinstate certain COVID-19 preventive measures in selected regions of the country.

So again, children are going where? Yes, back to school because we know the research tells us children learn best in an in-person environment, but COVID-19 protective measures should be in place at early childcare programs, K-12 schools, and colleges/universities.

This is part two in the safety series to address COVID-19 educational concerns and recommendations based upon CDC and other medical as well as scientific research findings. Findings which are ever evolving daily. Many statements will be direct quotes from these entities. The focus this week will be on proper ventilation within the school environment.

Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, the CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. The CDC recommendation states the need for universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 school, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the late summer/fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

Wearing a well-fitting multi-layer mask helps prevent virus particles from entering the air or being breathed in by the person wearing a mask. You should talk with your child(ren) about the importance of the mask and how it helps protect them as well as the entire family. You may want to use age-appropriate masks.

Younger children may like masks with different cartoon characters which makes it fun, where older students may prefer more decorative and fashion forward masks. The masks should not display lewd and/or offensive images or language. Note cloth masks should be washed regularly, if not daily, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Another one of these prevention strategies is good ventilation. Good ventilation helps reduce the number of virus particles in the air. Ventilation can help reduce the likelihood of spreading disease. Opening windows safely, using portable air cleaners, and improving building filtration are ways to increase ventilation in your school or childcare program.

This week’s article spoke to the benefits of good ventilation in a building or in a home childcare school setting, but to continue to Keep an Eye on Safety for Schools during COVID-  b19, next week’s article will outline safe ways to achieve good ventilation.