COVID and Back to School: What Parents Need to Know
August 11, 2021
If you’re a parent, you likely have a lot of questions when it comes to this fall.
What will school this year look like? Will there be masks? Will there even be in person classes? What is this new delta variant and what does it mean for my kids?
Just a few weeks ago the phrase “back to normal” seemed to be everywhere and a real back to school seemed possible - maybe even likely! But just a few weeks later parents, educators, and administrators are all scrambling to find answers amidst the uncertainty.
What do parents need to know about COVID, the delta variant, and what it means for kids?
To find out, we sat down with pediatric nurse practitioner Laura Vanston, founder of Colorado-based Inspire Pediatrics, to ask what parents should know about “back to school” in a year that’s still anything but back to normal.
Q: What do we know about COVID cases right now?
Laura Vanston: The number of daily cases of COVID is rising dramatically. The CDC reported that “In late June, our 7-day moving average of reported cases was around 12,000. On July 27, the 7-day moving average of cases reached over 60,000.” There are breakthrough infections, but most of the cases are in the unvaccinated.
Q: How is the Delta variant different?
LV: This variant is about twice as contagious as the original strain, with about 1,000 times the viral load in the noses of those infected. The delta variant accounts for about 80% of current US cases.
Q: How does the Delta variant affect kids?
LV: So far, the delta variant is much more contagious, but does not seem to be making kids more sick than other variants. Prior to the delta variant rise, kids accounted for about 14% of all COVID cases, and now they account for around 19%. In case numbers, there were 72,000 pediatric cases added in the past week, compared to 39,000 the previous week. Given that 70% of adults have been vaccinated and kids under 12 are not eligible, this shift isn’t surprising.
The good news is, children still don’t get as sick as adults. Only 0.1%-1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases result in hospitalization and 0.00%-0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death. Due to the increase in overall cases, we are seeing more hospitalizations, but the delta variant doesn’t seem to cause more hospitalizations (from what we’ve seen so far).
Q: How concerned should parents be as kids go back to school? What can we expect this fall?
LV: While COVID cases are something to think about, the big picture involves a combination of winter viruses and COVID. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases are skyrocketing this summer. RSV infections can cause infants and toddlers to be hospitalized for breathing support, often to ICU level care. What this means is that ICUs are near or at capacity in many areas, and even a small increase in extra cases of viruses like COVID could be a very big problem.
Usually, winter viruses calm down in the summer and spike again in the fall, but those viruses are already circulating and numbers are sure to increase as kids go back to school. So parents can expect that kids might be sick much more than normal after a year and a half of minimal illness!
Q: What can parents or guardians do to help keep kids safe?
LV: To help keep kids safe from COVID-19, the CDC currently recommends masking for children and for anyone eligible to be vaccinated if possible. For all the other viruses out there (these work for COVID too!), the best advice is fairly basic:
> Lots of handwashing
> Supporting your child’s immune system through a healthy diet (with plenty of immune supporting nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D and Zinc!)
> Getting adequate sleep
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to worse outcomes in COVID, so make sure your kids are getting enough through diet, sunlight or supplementation (talk to your healthcare provider about this one!) Limit unnecessary exposure to large crowds and make sure to keep your child home when they are sick to avoid spreading illness. This may be a rough fall and winter, but we’ll get through it together!
Laura is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a doctorate of nursing practice, and owner of Inspire Pediatrics, a Colorado-based virtual care and parent education service. Laura is passionate about providing well-researched perspectives that empower parents to make educated healthcare decisions for their families. She also provides convenient telehealth options in Colorado, so parents can navigate many childhood illnesses and concerns from the comfort of their own home. Follow her on Instagram at @inspirepediatrics or visit Inspire Pediatrics to learn more!
Far too few children are equipped with the training or access to call 911. Are yours? In this guide we'll explore the best kid-safe tools and strategies for making sure your child is ready to call for help.