MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Back to school means back to worrying about what kids will face in the midst of COVID-19.
Dr. Nick Hysmith, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, says they are getting plenty of calls from parents.
“There’s the possibility that we’re going to have kids that are masked in class with kids that are unmasked based on vaccination status and then how does that work out with sort of their inner personal interactions with each other. We definitely don’t want any situations where kids will feel bullied either one way or the other, because they’re wearing a mask or they’re not wearing masks or that sort of thing. So those are the questions that we’ve been getting,” says Hysmith.
Hysmith says the new CDC guidelines on masks for children under 12, and they are striving for three feet of distance between students, and vaccinations for those 12 and over set the stage on what parents can expect.
“I think it gives us a lot of clarity going into the school season. One thing that they did say is that, as we all have recognized over the last year, kids need to be in school to be interacting with their peers,” says Hysmith.
Schools are in the process of deciding how strict things will be in school buildings. Hysmith says one area that worries him is when mask mandates were dropped the end of last school year.
“For a lot of the school systems it’s going to be who do we require masks on, do we highly recommend masks, that sort of thing. I strongly feel that in the children who haven’t been vaccinated, so those 12 and under, then we should be requiring masks in that age group,” says Hysmith.
In Mississippi, the state’s health officer tweeted Tuesday that 12 children are in ICU due to the Delta variant of COVID-10, and 10 are on respirators.
Le Bonheur has its own task force that will meet with schools and offer advice. But there is one thing of particular concern that worries health officials is the rapidly growing Delta variant.
“I’m concerned that if we have this group that hasn’t been vaccinated, we have the Delta Vvariant and then we go back to school in person and there’s no guidance on masking, it’s going to cause a problem in that setting. We may have the Delta Variant sort of running rampant in that population,” says Hysmith.
Hysmith says because it’s unknown how the variant will impact kids, he says they can only wait and see how everything plays out.