From The Tribune staff reports
MONTGOMERY — Even though the overall level of community transmission of COVID-19 is declining in Alabama and the number of cases is decreasing, the majority of counties in the state continue to have high, moderate or substantial levels of infection, and the Alabama Department of Public Health still recommends school systems and individuals continue to be cautious.
“COVID-19 transmission levels in the community, along with vaccine levels, healthcare capacity, surveillance testing, and in-school reported outbreaks or cases should all be considered prior to changes in the layered mitigation used in the school setting,” a press released from the ADPH stated. “Layered mitigation, including universal masking, good hand hygiene, social distancing of at least three feet or to the extent possible, along with environmental cleaning, and improved ventilation, are important measures to keep children, staff and teachers safe.”
Representatives of the ADPH urged continued use of all preventive measures to reduce COVID-19 in schools until COVID 19 is under better control in Alabama.
Consistent and correct mask use in schools has helped reduce the number of cases of COVID-19, allowed schools remain open to in-person learning, and helped prevent the consequences of this serious disease. Scientific research published in Pediatrics, as well as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), supports mitigation measures, especially universal masking.
ADPH pediatricians Drs. Karen Landers and Wes Stubblefield advise parents, caregivers and school personnel to keep up prevention to keep down COVID.
Stubblefield, former president of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and now an ADPH medical officer, said, “As data continue to show the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in children, we urge parents to consider vaccinating those who fall in the eligible groups after a discussion with their health care provider.”
Landers, a long-time pediatrician, and medical officer with ADPH, said she is most concerned that COVID-19 cases in children are declining at a slower rate, with school-age children representing almost 15 percent of recently reported cases. This is during a time when some schools are on fall break, potentially allowing cases to appear lower than actual cases. Landers also expressed concern that at least 19 children were hospitalized with COVID-19, as of October 14 with three in intensive care and two on ventilators.
“We need to urge those involved in the education of children to provide a safe, healthy learning environment while we bring this virus under control,” Landers said.
Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR studies found that school districts without universal masking policies in place were more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks than other districts that did not implement mask policies. Pediatric COVID-19 cases increased nearly twice as quickly in counties without masking requirements than in counties requiring them.