Neglect of guidelines leads to new high of pediatric cases of COVID-19 as U.S. schools reopen

(Xinhua) 17:04, August 28, 2021

NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- As campuses reopen in tandem across the United States, new COVID-19 hospital admissions for kids have reached their highest levels since the country started tracking pediatric cases about a year ago, peaking at an average of 303 new admissions per day over the week ending Aug. 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday that schools that are already struggling with large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks generally aren't following federal mask and vaccine guidelines, calling on schools to adopt a multilayered approach that also includes social distancing, enhanced ventilation and COVID-19 testing to prevent outbreaks.

School closures will occur in districts with insufficient safeguards to block community spread of the virus, she said, adding, "I want to strongly appeal to those districts who have not implemented prevention strategies and encourage them to do the right thing to protect the children under their care."

Walensky, addressing a White House COVID-19 briefing, said the CDC studied an outbreak in Northern California where an unvaccinated, symptomatic teacher read to a class without a mask, spreading the virus to students, staff and their families. And in Florida, Hillsborough County Public Schools reported this month that nearly 10,400 students and almost 340 staff members were in isolation or quarantine after close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.


A New York City Department of Education (DoE) handbook made public on Thursday offered some clarity on what students, parents and staff should expect in the upcoming school year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Elementary school students, who are mostly ineligible for vaccination, will be asked to quarantine for 10 days when there's a positive case in their classroom. Children under 12 are ineligible for vaccination.

Middle and high school students who are vaccinated and not showing symptoms will not be required to quarantine. Vaccinated students showing symptoms and unvaccinated students will enter a 10-day quarantine.

According to the 13-page handbook, masks will be required on school buses and school property except when eating, and during designated "mask breaks" when the students will need to keep a safe federally-recommended three-feet distance from each other.

"There will be updates over the next few weeks as additional information comes in, but this gives you the template, and it makes clear our commitment to health and safety," said Mayor Bill de Blasio during his Thursday morning media briefing.


Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a statewide indoor mask mandate and vaccine requirements for state workers, including teachers and school staff.

"Unfortunately, we are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds," Pritzker told a news conference. "Hospital staff are becoming overwhelmed and overburdened. People are dying who don't have to die."

The mask mandate, effective on Monday, applies to all Illinois residents aged 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status.

The vaccination requirement for educators is set to start Sept. 5. School employees who are exempt must be tested once a week, teachers who refuse to be vaccinated will be required to submit to testing at least once a week.


Florida has been put in spotlight in these months not only for its highest number of coronavirus cases among U.S. states, but the standoff between its government and the school districts over mask mandate. The involvement of the federal government and the local legal system has just made it more dramatic.

A Leon County judge ruled on Friday that Governor Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority when he signed an executive order to block school mask mandates.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper scrutinized the governor's order, leading up to his determination that it was unconstitutional.

DeSantis' order, issued last month, directed his Department of Health to craft an emergency rule that says school mask mandates must have an opt-out for parents. The Florida Department of Education is enforcing the rule, and threatening to withhold state funds, or more, from school districts that defy the administration's order.

Ten of the state's 67 school districts have imposed mask mandates with only a medical opt-out. U.S. President Joe Biden has said his administration intends to step in to support local school officials who are financially penalized by the state.


In Texas, another U.S. state governed by a Republican leader where COVID-19 cases are running high and mask mandate is not officially supported, news of school closures over outbreaks of coronavirus keep popping out in various counties, disrupting the upcoming academic year for many children and parents.

Last week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) said that enforcement in the state's public school systems of Governor Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates has been dropped. In a public health guidance letter, the TEA recommended that public school systems consult local public health officials and legal counsel before making final decisions.

On Wednesday, the governor reissued his ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any state or local government entity, just days after Pfizer's shot was granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The announcement came as Texas grapples with a massive surge in coronavirus cases and as the state reported the most COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.


According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, many kids across the United States have missed their routine vaccines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving infectious disease experts worried about the potential for outbreaks of illnesses that were once largely vanquished in the country.

The foundation's research shows the number of doses given of recommended childhood vaccines has dropped below pre-pandemic levels, down by as much as 6 percent to 18 percent, depending on the vaccine or the age group. Babies and young children have been somewhat more likely to stay on schedule with most of their recommended vaccinations during the pandemic, but every age group is behind.

Many parents worry about COVID-19, but "frankly, a lot of the diseases that we vaccinate kids for are more severe in children than COVID-19, and so the last thing we want as we reenter the school year is outbreaks of these other vaccine-preventable diseases," added the professor.

In many schools across the United States, school nurses don't keep tabs on students' vaccine status, Linda Mendonca, president of the National Association of School Nurses, was quoted by NPR as saying. Her group's research shows a quarter of schools don't even have a nurse on staff, so it's unclear who's keeping tabs.

"Maybe the school secretary might keep track of records when they come in to school or something. But do they follow up with it? Do they understand what they're missing?" Mendonca said of those schools.

(Web editor: Du Mingming, Liang Jun)


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