It’s almost back-to-school time, and as pediatricians, there have never been more questions. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact our health care systems in the U.S. Now, as we are working diligently to care safely for patients, we have also broadened our reach to lead and guide responses from state and local agencies on safely returning to school.
Though some recommendations have evolved as we learn more about COVID-19, the pandemic cannot change our core mission—to improve the life of every child. As we work on the front lines of the hospital and clinics to manage pediatric patients with COVID-19, treat symptomatic patients who require testing and evaluation, as well as continue to provide safe and timely care for our patients who need usual care, we’ve added new messages this year for school readiness:
- Our clinics are safe and secure, and patients should continue to receive the care they need, including physical examinations and immunizations that will keep them protected from infections as we consider returning to school.
- In planning to reopen schools, local COVID-19 activity will need to be consistently and effectively tracked and reported, and local school and public health leaders will need to be working in concert to respond to changing conditions.
- Families will need to screen their children for symptoms of COVID-19 before sending them to school, and symptomatic children need to stay home.
- Face masks are now on the school supply list and no child or staff member should be without a face mask at school during the pandemic.
- Schools must adapt to allow for physical distancing, including keeping desks six feet apart, reducing cohort sizes and preparing for and adopting options for learning flexibility, such as remote learning.
We know that keeping children safe is a team sport. The Department of Pediatrics has been leading and contributing in multiple domains, including direct patient care, through policy and guideline creation, by planning and conducting research related to COVID-19 and its impacts, and through sharing our expertise with community partners.
Each of us has a role to play in this response, and I am incredibly proud of the work done by everyone on our team. Your continued efforts will help guide our patients and our communities safely through this pandemic.