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Published on August 03, 2021

two girls running to school wearing backpacks and masks

Parents, Put COVID Prevention on Your Back-to-School To-Do List

With the end of summer and the start of another year of school, an unfortunate familiar foe will be heading back to hallways and classrooms, too. COVID-19 and its Delta variant remain.

“Parents should plan on prevention steps again this year, due to ongoing spikes in COVID-19,” said Avera Medical Group pediatrician Marty Allison, MD, FAAP, Avera Medical Group Pierre.

Allison offers straightforward advice to all parents with school-aged kids:

  • Lead by example and get vaccinated yourself.
  • Get kids 5 and older vaccinated.
  • Use the lessons learned in the height of the pandemic to prevent exposure, including handwashing, mask use, social distance and staying aware.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) is currently recommending masks for all children older than 2, along with all teachers and school staff, regardless of vaccination status,” Allison said. “Schools might not require them, but if you feel better having your children wear them in school – you should.”

COVID, Children, School and the Delta Variant

Since the Delta variant of COVID spreads more easily and presents more severe cases of the coronavirus, parents should understand this strain is serious.

Allison said that thankfully the number of cases where children develop serious health issues due to COVID-19 are infrequent. But kids can still transmit it to others who may get sick and require hospitalization. That’s why masks and mitigation measures still matter.

There are also rare cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

What Resources Do We Consider?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are a great starting point for parents to consider. In addition, moms and dads can incorporate the guidance of a family’s health care provider and the school. Recommendations and common sense can help us all stay safe and reduce spread.

“We knew the Delta variant would likely become the dominant strain, and it has,” said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Clinical Quality. "I’d encourage all parents to keep an eye on local rates of infection and to be respectfully engaged with their local schools. Educational agencies continue to follow the science and do what’s best for their students – and parents can help.”

Vaccines for Kids are Safe

For kids 12 and older, vaccination remains the best way to prevent COVID-19. Recent rates of infection – both locally and nationally – show the facts:

  • About 98% of new cases reported in South Dakota recently were among people who were not vaccinated.
  • About 95% of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the state were also among this population.

“Variants of the virus rise up because they have a host or vector in which they can survive and mutate,” said Allison. “The more unvaccinated people there are, the more likely it is for more variants to develop and spread.”

Overall health is also important. Well-rested children who have healthy eating habits, stay hydrated and get plenty of exercise also will be more resilient in the face of an illness.

Learn more about vaccinations in your area that can help you and your family remain safe this school year.

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