As COVID-19 cases reach record high in state, members of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MSAAP) reiterate their strong recommendation that schools and daycares implement mask policies school-wide for staff and students over 2 years old. This recommendation reflects advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help keep children and staff in school.
“We know that schools have done a remarkable job of controlling the spread of COVID-19 while keeping children in the school they belong to,” said Dr. Anita Henderson, president of the MSAAP.
“As students return during the Omicron Wave, we need to see the successful strategies that worked last year restored, as some schools relaxed those policies in the fall. Measures like school-wide mask requirements and the vaccination incentive will help children stay in the classroom, where they can learn, play and grow. “
Pediatricians also recommend that all eligible staff and children receive COVID-19 vaccines, which reduce infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. Currently, children 5 years and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, with a few exceptions.
Cases are increasing rapidly, with more than 17,500 cases reported statewide as of January 3 as of the four-day weekend. Test positivity rates of more than 25 percent in Mississippi indicate strong community spread, a press release from the MSAAP said.
The MSAAP said hospitalizations from COVID-19 were on the rise nationwide for children. Currently, 5% of Mississippi children aged 5 to 11 and 35% of youth aged 12 to 17 are fully immunized, but too many of them are unprotected.
In light of these concerns, school-wide mask policies and vaccinations will help keep children, educators, families and communities safe as children return to school after recess, MSAAP officials said.
Principals have the authority of the Mississippi Department of Education to implement school-wide mask policies and the Mississippi Department of Health has said that even students and staff Vaccinees should wear masks during the flare-up given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. “Well-fitting masks and vaccines are key elements of a layered approach to safety that also includes efforts such as better ventilation and social distancing,” the press release said. As always, families should call their child’s doctor with any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 symptoms or vaccinations.
The Lincoln County School District offers rapid tests in its schools. Superintendent David Martin said as of Jan. 3 they had not reinstated the mask’s mandate, but officials would take day-to-day advice to keep their students safe.
“We were extremely busy those first few days,” he said. “[We shared a letter] with our parents regarding COVID [and] we will monitor the data and modify the plans as needed, as we have been doing from the start.
Schools in the town of Brookhaven have reinstated a mask warrant. “Brookhaven School District to Return to Universal Mandate of Mandatory Mask Wearing for All Students, Teachers [and] staff, ”said Superintendent Dr. Rod Henderson. “Anyone entering a building or vehicle in the Brookhaven School District should wear a mask regardless of their immunization status. We will also continue to monitor national and local statistics regarding the COVID-19 virus.
“We encourage our parents and guardians to keep their child at home if they are showing symptoms of COVID or the flu. Also, if their child has been tested for either, please do not send them to school until their results are confirmed. “
Dr Jeffrey Ross, KDMC chief medical officer and director of inpatient medicine, said there is really no way to differentiate COVID-19 from influenza based on a person’s symptoms because they look very similar. “The only way is to be tested,” he said.
He also said the incidence of COVID-19 increased significantly with the multiple hospitalizations. “The new isolation / quarantine recommendations are based on an individual’s immunization status and for those who are stepped up, the quarantine periods have been significantly reduced.
“Comprehensive vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent serious illnesses caused by COVID. Please wear your mask in public places and consider getting vaccinated. “