Delta variant surges: what measures will be taken as students return to school?
Surging covid-19 cases are putting the return to school under threat and states are taking measures to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers.
The CDC recommends that schools should reopen with in person learning regardless if covid-19 measures could be implemented. In the organization's view, the benefits of in-person teaching outweigh the risks of covid-19. The CDC cited data that has shown reopening schools did not increase covid-19 transmission rates when measures to prevent the spread were taken.
The reopening comes as the US's two largest teachers unions dropped their opposition to covid-19 vaccine mandates.
What measures are in schools currently?
Schools don't have enforced measures, but there are still guidelines set out by the CDC. The organization recommends that individuals should wear masks and keep a 3ft (1 meter) distance when indoors and have regular testing. If pupils have symptoms, they should stay home.
“I recommend making sure their student has high-quality masks and knows how to wear them correctly,” says Tara C. Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University’s College of Public Health. “They should either be cloth with a tight weave, or one of the KF94 or KN95 masks that are increasingly available. If they use the latter, they should be sure to buy them from reputable retailers and that they have a tight seal to the face.”
Working with young children will make many of these measures near impossible to enforce. However, Furthermore, guidelines are only guidelines and it is up to individual states to decide what measures they will take.
Indeed, eight US states (Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) have barred school districts from requiring masks, while 32 others are leaving the matter up to individual school districts.
What are the risks to children from the Delta variant?
The risk of serious complications in children remains rare, but health experts warn that the more transmissible variants, such as Delta, increase the risk to young people while they remain unvaccinated. Currently children udner 12 cannot be vaccinated and few between 12 and 17 are double jabbed. Only 3.7% of 12-15 year-olds have had one jab while just 2.2% of 16-17 year-olds have received their first vaccination.
Dr Carlos Oliveira, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, told NBC News: “Last year, for example, you would have to give a child a really high infectious dose to make them sick, but with the virus that's more contagious, even what would be an insignificant exposure could get them sick.”
Will children be vaccinated?
President Biden has affirmed his belief that children under 12 should be vaccinated. But there are still no provisions for it to happen. An FDA official told NBC News that Covid-19 vaccine approval for younger children could come by midwinter. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech both launched trials of their Covid-19 vaccines for children under 12 in March, with results expected in the fall. As of July 15, 400 children in the US have died of the disease.