While my children’s elementary school had several COVID cases within the building last year, it was a comfort that there didn’t appear to spread within the building. But that all changed as soon as students returned last week — and immediately we appear to have community spread among students within one classroom.
It turns out my kids’ school is not alone. The start of the school year for students across the country has led to an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases in children – which now account for 22.4% of weekly U.S. cases. School districts across the country have taken vastly different approaches to navigating in-person learning to varying degrees of success. Parents want to see their children back in the classroom, but safety is a top priority and many parents support mandated safety measures such as masks or requiring teachers to be vaccinated.
Without proper safety measures in place, coronavirus outbreaks – now driven almost entirely by the Delta variant in the U.S. – could send classrooms back online or force some districts to close entirely. And that could have impacts on employers who want to bring their parents back to work. One Texas school district closed all schools after two teachers died from COVID-19 complications in the same week.
Some schools are using test-to-stay methods that rely on daily rapid testing of students and staff to prevent kids from missing days in class due to quarantine after exposure. New coronavirus variants pose a higher risk for children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. A recent study from the CDC reported unvaccinated adolescents were hospitalized with COVID-19 at 10 times the rate of their vaccinated peers.