Colorado pediatricians, educators pen letter to state urging quarantines, masks during next school year

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado pediatricians and educators have written an open letter to Governor Jared Polis to encourage stronger mitigation measures to ensure personalized instruction next school year.

In the letter sent Monday, medical groups and teachers’ unions urged continued COVID-19 testing and quarantines, improved ventilation and use of outdoor space, and mask use for unvaccinated people (including children not yet eligible for treatment). vaccination).

For some families, the school year brought many challenges, especially when it came to masks.

“For my high school student, he is so annoyed that he has to remember a mask in the morning, and then for him in elementary school, I know that when I met him at his door and he walked away, he would take off his mask and fresh Then he’d tell me to have the teacher repeat things,” said Colorado Springs parent Trisha Gorman.

“If we didn’t lose it, it would get dirty with spaghetti at lunch. One day I dropped him off, and he hadn’t even gotten out of the car and the teacher yelled at him to put on his mask,” he says. Robin Baugh, Colorado Springs parent.

So when the statewide mask mandate came to life, both parents looked forward to some normalcy. The groups behind the letter hope to be able to recall them as a precaution due to the spread of the COVID variants.

“The understanding is that the Delta variant, the variant that came from India, will be the dominant variant in some places or very soon the dominant variant in some places. We don’t know what this will mean for children, but we do know that it is more contagious and likely causes more serious illness,” said Rusha Lev, American Academy of Pediatrics, Colorado Chapter.

According to the letter, vaccinations have contributed to a significant decrease in transmission of COVID-19 in much of the state, but there are 800,000 children who are not eligible for the vaccine.

“Unimmunized children are at higher risk of becoming infected with any exposure and have a higher risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19 now compared to 2020, as currently circulating variants are more contagious for all age groups and more likely to require hospitalization and cause serious illness,” the letter says.

To support personal instruction in the fall, the groups want school districts to consider continuing with mitigation measures such as masks.

“As a group, we had a feeling that some of the announcements already made by the school districts about what this coming year will look like in regards to virus containment measures, and some of us parents were confused about what the situation was for kids that needed to be addressed. tackled We may be able to start a dialogue about what next year should look like,” said Lev.

She says that when the state-wide mask mandate expired, children were left out of the discussion.

“We believe that dropping all mitigation efforts next year could lead to more disruption, which is why children are missing out on personal full-time learning,” Lev said.

“Having those things in place helps us maintain personal learning, which is our top priority. We know that personal learning is the best place for our students and our teachers. The reality is that the majority of our educators are vaccinated or have received the vaccine, there is a large population of students who are not even eligible for a vaccine,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, the Colorado Education Association. “We want to make sure that districts continue to think about how we go about those mitigation strategies implement to minimize extracurricular learning.”

With the COVID strains spreading rapidly, Lev says it’s important for the community to remain vigilant.

“While people are welcome to make their choices outside of school. Our argument is that within school, at least until we have a better idea of ​​what we can do with vaccinating younger children, where we are with variants, where we are with infections that expect to rise in the fall and minimize disruptions that we’re doing a number of things to keep it safer,” Lev said.

While she understands parents’ frustrations over some of the recommendations, Lev says slowing the spread is critical and will ensure that children have the opportunity to learn personally during the fall.

“Unfortunately, COVID is not over yet, but it is much better for many reasons. The reasons are mainly because we as a community are doing the right things to make it go away. minds and the minds of my children and the vast majority of the children I care for, a mask is a pretty easy and little irritating thing to do,” Lev said.

Some parents just want some normalcy after a chaotic school year.

“Right now it’s frustrating. I don’t know much about variants, but I do know that over 70 percent of Colorado has been vaccinated. So right now, if you don’t have that, it’s a choice. I’m not sure what “Why are we worried about kids getting it because the majority of adults are vaccinated because they’re worried. They’ve shown very few symptoms and it’s just disrupting their lives right now.” said Baugh.

(Editorial note: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment data shows a 50.5% vaccination rate against COVID-19.)

“I don’t let the fear of something happening to my child dictate what they do on a daily basis. We take our precautions, we wash our hands, we all do that and so far we’ve been good,” Gorman said.

The groups have not received a response to their letter, but plan to continue their efforts for stronger mitigation measures.

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