Alabama Pediatric group “strongly recommends” masks, other measures for students as variant spreads

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FILE – In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School while observing COVID-19 prevention protocols in The Bronx borough of New York. Schools and camps across the county are making plans to help kids catch up academically this summer after a year or more of remote learning for many of them. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WDHN) — Alabama pediatricians are making recommendations as students head back to classrooms in coming weeks.

The Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its position on masking due to climbing numbers of COVID-19 cases, mainly due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

“The number of new cases of COVID-19 among children per week is increasing and is currently equivalent to the number per week added in the summer of 2020,” the group said in a statement.

Many school districts in the Wiregrass are scheduled to start in less than two weeks.  Doctors are concerned spread of the Delta variant in children who are not vaccinated could lead to local outbreaks, causing disruptions in the learning process again this year.

The statement explained the seriousness of the virus in children: “COVID-19 is not a benign disease among children. Although data in Alabama are limited, across the United States approximately one out of every 100 children with COVID will require hospitalization. Three hundred and forty-four children across the U.S. have died due to COVID-19, including eight here in Alabama.”

Pediatricians called on stakeholders to carefully monitor data and the science to keep children safe this upcoming school year.

“Everything possible must be done to keep students physically in schools,” recognizing students’ mental, social, and physical needs.

Based on the information available, the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended all eligible students, faculty, and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The group also advised all students and school staff to wear face masks for the upcoming fall semester.

According to the statement, “Masking also has the added benefit of reducing transmission of other respiratory viruses (like influenza and RSV) that would take time away from school.”  Furthermore, school districts should remain flexible and make adjustments, as necessary, as new information emerges in coming weeks.

The pediatric group also weighed in on how schools should handle quarantine requirements for the upcoming school semester:

• People who do not demonstrate evidence of full vaccination should be in quarantine for a minimum of 10 days after close exposure (i.e. less than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes to a person who tested positive for COVID).

• Quarantine duration may be shortened to 7 days if there is no evidence of symptoms and a negative COVID test on day 5 or 6 post-exposure.

• If there is not a universal masking policy, exposed people should be expected to wear a mask for 14 days regardless of the duration of their quarantine.

• People who are able to demonstrate evidence of full vaccination status do not have to quarantine but should be notified to monitor for symptoms.

The statement also warned that choosing not to take steps to mitigate rising COVID-19 cases “will result in an increased number of pediatric infections and in a significant disruption of school-based activities.”

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