Until July of 2021, kids in the U.S. were heavily shielded against the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were being conducted online and children were staying home, reducing their exposure to the virus. In the second quarter of 2021, schools have begun to resume physical classes. Children are going out more to attend school on campus, which, of course, carries the risk of them contracting COVID — especially since most children are ineligible to receive their vaccines.
Vaccine brands are busy with clinical studies to test the efficacy of their respective shots against COVID and its more transmissible delta variant. While FDA approval for the inoculation of children under 12 is underway, students, as well as their parents, should take proactive steps to help dodge COVID-19 as they go back to school.
1. Observe Symptoms of Infection
Before kids attend their physical classes, parents should be wary of different symptoms that they may show at home. Children used to be considered “immune” to previous COVID-19 strains, which affected them only moderately. However, with the delta variant looming, infected children may show flu-like symptoms, such as fever or chills, headache, cough, runny nose, body ache, nausea, and sore throat.
If a child presents any of these symptoms at home, it’s best not to allow them to go to school and instead schedule COVID-19 testing. If the test yields a positive result, the child should complete their quarantine period of 10 days.
Children may not be used to wearing masks because, for most of the year of the pandemic, they remained at home. But now that the time has come for them to rejoin society physically, it’s critical that they wear masks not only to protect themselves but also their classmates and teachers. The CDC strongly recommends that students in kindergarten to grade 12 wear masks in school, whether vaccinated or not.
Instruct your child to wear his or her mask in the bus, school hallways, classrooms, etc., and only remove them to eat or drink. Provide them with a mask that covers their nose and mouth properly, such as a 3-ply surgical mask or KN95. Alternatively, they can also wear Jelli M1 clear masks for the required protection without eliminating the visibility of the mouth — a strong communication and educational aid.
Aside from providing them with masks to wear, parents should also explain the importance of mask-wearing for their health and safety. Instilling the purpose of it can help kids better understand what a mask is for and have the motivation to keep it on throughout the day.
3. Encourage Socially-Distant Activities
During recess or breaks, children likely spend their time playing or doing activities with friends. But in the time of a pandemic, these break activities will evolve to become more socially distant. School administrators may also limit the number of students allowed outdoors at a time to curb the spread of the virus on campus.
Teach your children about the concept of social distancing, why it's needed, and how to observe it. It’s also a good idea to instruct them to spend a couple of minutes alone outdoors and enjoy mask-free breaks (in moderation).
4. Discuss Outdoor or In-Classroom Lunches
With schools reopening, cafeterias will also resume operations at full capacity. But an enclosed, indoor space with hundreds of children not wearing masks to eat is a high-risk setting. If the school permits, talk to your child about eating lunch outdoors to mitigate the chances of infection. Some schools have also allowed their students to have lunch on their classroom desks to observe physical distance and reduce crowds.
5. Let Children Take a Break From Extracurricular Activities
Before schools retired physical classes last academic year, extracurricular activities were the main cause of COVID-19 outbreaks in campus settings. With the more contagious delta variant, there is a great possibility of children getting infected during their extracurriculars.
Among the high-risk activities identified by experts include close-contact sports, indoor sports, choir, and band activities. Until younger children become eligible for vaccines and most students receive their complete shots, it’s recommended to pause on physical clubs and sports and instead opt for virtual or solo extracurricular activities.
Small Adjustments, Big Benefits
While the resumption of physical classes is partially in an effort to return education back to its normal state, there are a few changes and adjustments that need to be made amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It may seem like a hassle to observe these additional safety precautions, but they’re minor adjustments that can keep a child’s health in check and prevent them from contracting the virus.