Editor’s Note: Letter to the Editor
To the Editor:
Since the beginning of the school year, our Pediatrics East offices have seen significant increases in COVID-19 Delta variant cases in schools that do not require students to wear masks compared to those with a mask requirement. These schools not requiring masks are not fully considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommendations on how to keep children safely in school during the pandemic. Some of these same schools have already had to cancel some of their in-person instruction temporarily.
It is a well-known fact that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 Delta variant cases in Alabama, especially among children and adolescents. As practicing physicians of Pediatrics East-Trussville and Pediatrics East-Deerfoot in Pinson, we feel compelled to remind school systems and parents of the proper, suggested protocols to keep our communities safe and healthy. While monitoring our cases in our clinic, we see higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in school systems that do not require masks compared with those with some mask requirements in place. In addition, schools have to close due to rising COVID cases, which puts stress on children’s mental health. Many children have already had to quarantine multiple times due to COVID-19 exposures in school and at home on top of these school closures. We believe that masking, social distancing, and vaccination are the most effective ways to prevent the virus’s spread within classrooms and keep our children in school. Many scientific studies back up what we see in our clinic: that masking is a safe and effective method to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The following are reminders from Children’s of Alabama and the CDC for schools and school activities. Children’s recommendations to help keep students in school, learning, and healthy:
- Masking for students in the in-person school setting, regardless of vaccination status
- All others, especially unvaccinated adults, should wear masks inside buildings at all times, especially around children younger than 12 years of age, which are not yet eligible for vaccination.
- Full vaccination for all those who are 12 and older
- Avoid large crowds and socially distance to the extent possible
- Handwashing and/or the use of hand sanitizer
The CDC’s recommendations for K-12 schools include:
- All students, teachers, and staff who are eligible (12 years and older) get vaccinated
- All teachers, staff, students, and visitors should wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status
- Schools should maintain three feet of physical distance between students within the classroom and indoor settings
- Students, teachers, and staff should stay home if they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their health care provider for testing and care.
While COVID-19 does not cause nearly as many deaths in children as in adults, COVID-19 does affect children. We are seeing patients in our clinic being admitted to Children’s for complications from COVID-19. As pediatricians, there is nothing more disheartening than admitting a child to the hospital because necessary precautions were not taken seriously and then seeing the stress that hospitalization causes on a family. In addition, we have seen children have lingering symptoms, including chronic fatigue and exercise intolerance, for months after having COVID-19. Children have to stop sports because of persisting COVID-19 symptoms or complications. We hope and pray that the pandemic will soon end, and we can move forward without these concerns. Until then, we must take the necessary steps to protect all children from this virus while still allowing them to be safe in school.
Diane Patricia Dietlein, MD, Phillip W. Harmon, MD, Diane Kutny, MD, Mark Lytle, MD, Michael Miller, MD, Angela Redmond, MD, Katherine Rochelle, MD, Peily Soong, MD, Rebecca Webster, MD, Garland Youngblood, MD, Ann-Katrin Wilson, MD