Returning to school interview with Mississippi American Academy Pediatrics President

Coronavirus

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Schools across the state are set to return to in-person instruction and parents have raised questions about whether it is safe for their child to return to school.

Reporter Jailen Leavell interviewed Mississippi American Academy Pediatrics President Anita Henderson.

LEAVELL:

The Mississippi Department of Health reported from December 30 to January 2, over 17,000 positive COVID-19 cases. When you hear that, what is your reaction to it?

HENDERSON:

They are certainly seeing the surge from the Omicron variant, and it’s not surprising given the amount of community transmission over the holidays over Christmas, over New Year’s. What we’re seeing in pediatrics is families. Entire families are testing positive for COVID. That’s why those numbers are not surprising. Unfortunately, what we’re really concerned about is now kids will be going back to school this week, and so they will be taking the COVID that they caught over the holidays into the school setting. That’s why we’re really encouraging parents whose children have any symptoms. Parents whose children have been exposed – please get them tested and evaluated before sending them back into the classroom.

LEAVELL:

Do you think it’s safe for those parents who are concerned about returning? Should parents send their kids to school?

HENDERSON:

We know that kids learn best in person. We know there’s so much involved in schools that can’t be replicated at home, and we have students who don’t have Wi-Fi capability. They don’t have broadband for distance learning, so we know that in-person is important. However, we know that schools can have kids there safely if they use all those measures, masking outdoor activities when possible and encouraging vaccination. So those are things that parents can do. Those are things that schools can do to lower their risk of COVID-19.

LEAVELL:

Would you recommend parents get their child a booster?

HENDERSON:

The FDA has approved booster shots for ages 12 to 15, and that would be five months after that second Pfizer dose. The AC IP meets tomorrow. That’s the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Once they make that determination, we will decide whether or not to completely recommend those boosters. But we do know that with adults, they have been proven to be effective and safe at preventing severe disease against Omicron. So yes, in general, we certainly recommend boosters based on the CDC guidelines for parents watching this.

LEAVELL:

For parents watching this, is it safe for the children to interact with other children? Should they wear a mask? What should they do?

HENDERSON:

When your children are interacting outdoors, it is definitely safer. We know that COVID-19 is less transmissible outside, so outside activities are always safer than indoor activities inside. If you’re mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated people, we definitely recommend wearing a mask. So those are some things that parents can do to help protect their children in the school setting at home and within the community.

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