Students across the country faced abrupt school closings in early 2020 as the virus first emerged, and then many endured a patchwork of virtual and home-based learning for much of the 2020-2021 school year. So a return to a somewhat “normal” school year in fall 2021 has been a welcome relief for parents and students alike.
However, this return to the classroom hasn’t been without its challenges. “This return-to-school season is like no other. Schools must be prepared to protect children from COVID-19, while also addressing a wide array of other pandemic-related challenges returning students are facing,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky.
One of those challenges is making students’ mental health a top priority during what has been a disruptive and stressful time for children. Schools “need to provide safe and supportive school environments to promote student well-being and recovery,” says Dr. Walensky.
So while the nation’s school systems strike the delicate balance of keeping kids safe and happy in school while preventing the spread of COVID-19, here are some tips to help out at home.
Keeping Kids Safe
Many adults have opted for themselves and their teenage children to receive one of the several free and effective COVID-19 vaccines, but there is not yet such an option for children under 12. Until FDA approval or Emergency Use Authorization comes through, there are still many ways to reduce your child’s COVID risk:
- Keep sick kids home. Even if their symptoms turn out to be “just” a cold, you’re still slowing community spread of respiratory illness.
- Test when needed. If your child has symptoms like a cough or fever, or if they’ve had a known exposure to someone with COVID, have them tested so you can know their status and take appropriate measures. BetterMed offers PCR, rapid antigen, and antibody testing at multiple convenient locations.
- Keep up with medical care. Well-child doctor visits and routine vaccinations remain an important part of keeping your child healthy.
- Wear a mask. The current CDC recommendation is that everyone – regardless of age or vaccination status – wear a mask indoors, including in schools. Tightly fitted, double-layered masks are the gold standard, but the best mask for your child is the one that they can comfortably keep on as long as needed.
- Prioritize hand hygiene. Washing with soap and water is still one of the best ways to kill germs.
- Eat well, get exercise, get enough rest. These basic activities – important long before COVID was ever a thing – are the building blocks of a healthy immune system.
With the recent rise of COVID-19 strains such as the Delta variant, America is facing the fact that we’re going to be living with this virus for longer than we had hoped. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom: with the widespread distribution of vaccines, and science-based mitigation measures like masks and hand hygiene, we’re finding a way to carefully coexist with COVID-19. Keep informed on regulations in your area to know what’s safe and advised as the pandemic continues to evolve.