Returning to school, once again, during a surging COVID-19 pandemic

A year ago, and more than 9 months after the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone was wondering if and how children could return to school safely in the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.1,2 A year on, with the remarkable successes of the development and free distribution of three COVID-19 vaccines for adults and 1 vaccine approved via emergency authorization for children as young as 12 years old, you would think returning to school would be so much easier. And yet, as we all know, communities, parents and educators have raised numerous questions about return to school and are deeply divided over 3 key issues: 1) Vaccination of all school personnel (including educators and all employees within the school system); 2) Wearing masks at school and in school outdoor activities that affect transmission; 3) Comply with other mitigation behaviors that reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and especially the delta variant. Lois Levine’s Interview with Sara Bode, MD, “What Will the Next School Year Look Like?” 3 contains guidelines that focus on the issues related to providing a safe school environment, including social distancing of 1 meter in the classroom and maintaining this distance during cafeteria-style meals, school sports that are close contact, such as football and football, and especially the need to vaccinate everyone who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

School nurses and practice nurses

School nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) who work in school-based health centers (SBHCs), as well as pediatric nurses and nurses who work in primary care, also provide guidelines for keeping children safe in school to parents, children and adolescents. School nurses and nurses in SBHCs are even on the front lines to contain the COVID-19 virus in school settings. In addition, they talk to parents who fear for their child’s safety and also to parents and educators who are resistant to 1 or all safety and health care recommendations, such as wearing masks, social distancing and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine. . It is a huge burden on each of these caregivers because our role and passion is caring for children and families with the overall goal of helping parents keep their children healthy and safe. How can we achieve this goal when there is overwhelming resistance to safety, such as masks and vaccines during a pandemic that affects the most vulnerable, as we know, unvaccinated adults, persons with weakened immune systems and children under 12 years of age who are up to currently not eligible for the vaccine?

Pediatric nurses and nurse specialists guidance for parents and educators

Supporting the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance on returning children to school safely, and Dr. Herald on parental questions is step 1 when considering what to say to parents. Our message should also include the words: COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease, and the vaccine has been scientifically proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. Vaccinated parents protect their children from direct household exposure. While we should listen to the concerns of parents and educators, our responses should be strong and strongly focused on our healthcare mission to protect children, speak with those who are resistant to vaccines, and direct those with questions to accurate information about the benefits of masks, social distancing and vaccines.

Trauma prevention

Parents may need to consider possible consequences of resistant behavior. The trauma of watching a child who is critically ill, in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), is one that no parent should have experienced, and may not have considered it a possible outcome. COVID-19 is causing this trauma and children at the PICU are struggling to breathe in states with low vaccination coverage and no public health measures. Parents often report that they have experienced lifelong trauma after the loss of a child to an illness or accident. All pediatric nurses and nurse specialists also experience the trauma of these losses. Our message should be that these traumas can be prevented and/or minimized through basic safety measures, and we are all responsible for protecting the children in our care, communities and across our country.

Contemporary Pediatrics August 2022

I believe we all hope that the August 2022 edition of Contemporary Pediatrics includes a return to school article stating that we have overcome the COVID-19 beast and that our education system has been corrected and the future is bright for our children.

References

1. Hallas, D. Spratling, R. Cupelli, E. Safe return to school: a call to action. Contemporary pediatrics. 37(8) 16-21.

2. Koslap-Petraco, MB. Taub, A. Hallas, D. Safe Return to School: Part 2. Published August 19, 2020. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/view/safe-return-to-school-part- 2

3. Levine, L. What does the coming school year look like? Contemporary pediatrics. 38(8) 24-25.

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