Students return to classrooms as COVID cases, hospitalizations surge

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 9:07 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the U.S., students around the country are heading back to school.

Many parents are now wondering if there really is a way to make schools safe.

“Think about what you can do and what those around you can do to protect yourselves. That’s how we stop this pandemic,” said Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

The Delta variant of the virus now accounts for more than 93% of new COVID-19 cases. Deaths were up by 42% last week. Hospitalizations are three times higher than a month ago.

“Getting everyone who’s 12 years of age or older fully vaccinated before the school year starts should be number one on everyone’s back-to-school checklist,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center said.

Rajapakse said it is also critical to urge everyone eligible to get vaccinated to help protect those too young to get the vaccine.

“It becomes all the more important that we lean heavily on the other preventative strategies that we do have like masking, physical distancing, handwashing, in order to keep them as safe as possible,” Rajapakse said.

While recommendations for schools will vary based on changes in the pandemic, and from one community to the next, more than 90% of the U.S. population right now lives in a county where people should be wearing a mask indoors, according to the latest CDC guidance.

”I would not recommend a brand new first day of school mask because you want to really use one that they have worn before that you know fits well, that they’ll be able to keep on and that they’re comfortable wearing,” said Rajapakse.

Health experts say wearing a mask at school also provides a layer of protection against other respiratory viruses, which can cause symptoms similar to COVID-19.

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