Back to School Tips for 2021
In honor of parents all over Texas who are scrambling to get their kids ready for school, here are some Back to School Tips for 2021. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend our daily life and the start of the new school year just a few weeks ahead, stress levels are running high for both parents and children. Now with the COVID-19 Delta variant, parents need all of the help they can get.
School districts continue to weigh learning options for this school year, and we still don’t know when things will be back to normal. However, there are steps you can take as a parent to help prepare your children for in-person classes.
Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.
Get to Know About the Delta Variant
The first of our Back to School Tips for 2021 is to get to know more about the Delta variant. This most recent COVID-19 mutation or variant has quickly become the dominant strain accounting for more than 93% of all new COVID-19 cases in the US. (Source: CDC).
One of the reasons for Delta’s expansion according to the CDC, is that it’s twice as contagious as the previous COVID-19 strains.
Another reason for its quick rise is that recent studies have shown that the Delta virus is stronger, packing 1000 times the “viral load” than previous COVID variants. As a result, the unvaccinated have been the worst hit and have overrun hospitals and emergency rooms all over Texas. According to the latest data from Becker’s Hospital Review, during the last 14 days,
Texas hospitals have experienced a 102% increase in COVID-19 hospitalization rates with every 30 out of 100 hospitalizations being COVID-19 related.
With this knowledge in mind, it is important for parents to take the insertion of the Delta variant into consideration when sending their children back to school.
RSV Cases Are Still On the Rise
Hospital overcrowding leads us to our next of the Back to School Tips for 2021. In our recent news article, CDC WARNING: Rise in RSV Cases in Children and Adults, we alerted our communities on the recent out-of-season spike in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus which if left untreated can be deadly. Like most respiratory viruses, RSV is spread by touching an infected surface and by air. In fact, the virus can survive on hard surfaces for many hours. Once infected with RSV, a healthy individual can remain contagious for 3-8 days. However, in some cases, “individuals can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.” Source: CDC.
It is vital to know how to recognize RSV signs and symptoms. These tend to show up within 4-6 days and usually appear in stages. “In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.” Source CDC. The following are the most common RSV signs and symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
- Coughing & Sneezing
- Wheezing and difficulty breathing
Should you or a loved one exhibit any of these RSV symptoms (which do not come all at once), visit your local Altus location to have it evaluated by an ER physician and avoid possible complications.
RSV Complications in Infants and Children according to the CDC:
- Bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung)
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
Considering that hospitals are packed full, it is important that parents take all necessary steps to safeguard their children from the RSV virus.
Texas Schools Reopening Guidelines
Now that we have discussed the current health situation, the next of our Back to School Tips for 2021 is to get to know the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) reopening guidelines to know what to expect. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) new COVID-19 health guidance :
- Children are not required to wear facemasks (this is entirely optional)
- Texas schools are not required to inform parents of positive COVID cases (contact tracing)
- They are required to notify the Texas Department of State Health Services authorities
- They are required to notify the parents of the children who came into close contact with the COVID-positive child or teacher.
- They are required to exclude the child from classes and remote learning for up to 20 days.
- “For individuals who are determined to be close contacts, a 14-day stay-at-home period was previously advised by the CDC based on the incubation period of the virus” or they may end the period sooner having received “a negative result from a PCR acute infection test.”
If Kids Get Infected with Delta, Are They at Serious Risk?
“Most children who get COVID–19 have less symptoms than adults. However, the Delta variant is more transmissible than other variants, therefore protection against exposure is more important than ever, especially among those who are unvaccinated or too young to be vaccinated.
- We know—based on national antibody studies—that children experience COVID–19 infection, even if they have had fewer symptoms. National seroprevalence data show that children (age 0–17) have the highest level of antibodies of any age group (27.8%).
- CDC recommends that parents take appropriate protective actions, such as having children older than age 2 who are unvaccinated wear masks in public indoor settings.”
In other words, although children that had been exposed to the virus experienced “low transmission rates”, the data was derived from previous COVID-19 variants and not the Delta. As children tend to be either asymptomatic or very mild symptoms, they are still potential transmitters of the virus and can endanger those who have not been vaccinated. For this reason, the most important of our Back to School Tips for 2021 are for parents to take the necessary steps to help prevent and protect their children and their communities.
Teach Them How They Can Stay Safe
Kids are more aware of their surroundings than many of us think. They can feel the stress and anxiety of grownups, and they see the news. The problem is that they don’t always understand why things happen.
For this reason, it’s important to teach our kids, especially the smaller ones, how harmful germs spread, and how they can make us sick. The critical point, however, is also to teach them how they can keep themselves safe.
So, while you explain that virus and bacteria can enter their system when they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands, you also explain what they can do to keep safe.
- Help them create the habit of washing their hands with soap and water regularly. You can make up a fun song together or teach them how to blow soap bubbles while they wash their hands.
- Explain why they shouldn’t touch their faces (eyes, nose, and mouth) with unwashed hands. No need to scare them, simply remind them of how much fun they missed out on the last time they were sick.
- Teach them about social distancing. Personal boundaries are hard to understand for most kids, but as we get used to our new normal, teaching them about personal space is vital. Find creative ways for them to express how much they care about a classmate or teacher that doesn’t involve hugging or close contact.
While PPE is completely optional in Texas, for those parents who consider following the CDC’s recommendations, here are some tips on facemasks:
- Not sharing is caring. Children need to understand that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) cannot be shared with anyone else. You don’t want to send your child to school with a Superman face mask only to have them return home with a Spiderman face mask.
- Instruct them on the proper way to wear PPE. Show your kids how to put on their face coverings, and how to remove them safely. Insist they always wash their hands before putting on or taking off their PPE
Other tips for preventing the spread of viruses:
- For current COVID-19 case counts across Texas, please visit the Department of State Health Services dashboard. If you are in a “hot spot” you will have a greater chance of exposure and transmission.
- Set up a mom’s network. While the schools may not be broadly reporting the COVID cases, a mom’s chat network can help keep parents informed.
- For parents with older kids (ages 12 and up), many school districts are hosting back-to-school COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. Should you wish to get your teen vaccinated, contact your local school district to find out which one may be near you.
- For younger children, parents may opt to “cocoon them in” which means that they take the steps to ensure that everyone in their close proximity is vaccinated and when they are around others who are not, they consider wearing facemasks and social distancing.
Kids don’t all feel the same way about school. Some love it and others not so much.
As parents, it’s important to point out the positive aspects of going to school. Bring up the friendship bonds they’ve developed at school, and always try to link their studies to their interests.
Most importantly, listen to your child. Talk openly about their concerns and fears about returning to school and reassure them that both you and their teachers will do everything you can to keep them safe.
Schedule Check-Ups in Advance
Don’t leave your kids’ medical checkups for last. Call your doctor to schedule a routine checkup well ahead of the start of face to face classes. This way, you will have time to treat any minor condition that can compromise your child’s health at school.
Health and safety guidelines are continually changing, depending on how COVID-19 is spreading through our communities.
Therefore, establish communication channels with teachers, principals, and other parents to ensure you are up to date with all safety measures. Please keep in mind that as long as their are transmissions, the COVID-19 virus will continue to mutate. Together, we can help end the spread!
At Altus Emergency Centers, we know how much you love your children and how you always want what is best for them. That is why all our centers have special pediatric examining rooms, and medical professionals to treat your child when necessary.