Question: Should I send my children to in-person school?

Answer: Yes. It has been a year since many children have not attended in person school, the educational and psychological risk outweighs the risk from the coronavirus. Last March we did not know much about the spread of the COVID-19 among children and in school settings. Now a number of scientific articles and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer strong guidance that bringing children back to in-person school is safely possible if all the necessary prevention measures are followed.

What is the scientific evidence for safe in-person schooling?

Of the many studies, one study from University of Tennessee, Knoxville released a few weeks ago is most convincing. The researchers studied two schools during the fall of 2020 in the Southeast US, following cases closely and doing regular testing.

Of the 3,500 students and staff followed 137 cases where identified and when detailed tracing was done 91% were not related with school-based transmission.

Also, no transmission occurred from student to staff. In addition they found highest positive COVID-19 infection cases  after school breaks and vacations. 

What do the CDC guidelines mean for us in Shelby County with the rates going down?

In Shelby county during the second week in February, we still have over 200 cases per 100,000 per week, yet our positivity rate is 7%. In the guidance document Shelby County is in the high transmission category for the number of cases and in the yellow for the positivity rate.

Under the yellow status CDC recommends, “Routine screening testing of students offered once per week. K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction.

Sports and extracurricular activities occur with physician distancing of 6 feet or more required.” And under the red status CDC recommends “Elementary schools in hybrid learning mode or reduce attendance and Middle and high schools in virtual only instructions unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies.”

Can regular assurance testing make our schools safer?

Yes. We know that regular asymptomatic testing is helping in identifying cases and reducing transmission in schools. While testing and vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for in-person school they are added safety techniques to the usual masking, distancing, hand washing, disinfecting and proper ventilation.

What do we know about COVID-19 infection in children?

Multiple studies show that children are less commonly infected with COVID-19 compared with adults. Also, younger children less than 10 years of age are less likely to be infected compared to adolescents. The reasons for this are still unclear.

When will children be vaccinated?

The Pfizier is approved through emergency use authorization for persons over 16 and the Moderna is approved for those over 18. At present the clinical trials on the safety and benefits of the vaccine on younger children have not been completed. It is likely we will have data in several months for children from 12 to 16 and then on younger children.

Source: Commercial Appeal