The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for renewed emphasis and support to keep schools open, stating in updated guidance that in-school learning should be prioritized, with diligent adherence to safety measures such as vaccination, universal masking and physical distancing.
The AAP says it observes that children have suffered in numerous ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a dramatic rise in mental health emergencies and deepening chasm of educational and health inequities experienced in under-resourced communities. At this time, when more than 2 million children have been infected with COVID-19 during the month of January alone – it is important to make sure children and staff wear masks whether or not they’ve been vaccinated, the group says.
“We know families are struggling and feel their frustration, especially during the latest surge in cases due to the Omicron variant,” said Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, the 2022 president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Yet we should not lose sight of how far we have come during the pandemic. We have a vaccine that helps protect us from the virus and lessens the severity of illness for those who do get sick. We know that masks are an extremely effective layer of protection. We urge everyone to have patience and not let down their guard.”
The AAP also updated its guidance on sports participation this week.
The school guidance update aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and also advises:
- COVID-19 vaccination of all children and adolescents 5 years of age and older who do not have contraindications;
- Universal indoor masking;
- Modification of mealtime school spaces to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, especially during periods of high transmission;
- Quick identification of COVID-like symptoms and isolation for 5 days, as recommended by the CDC.
- AAP recommends prioritizing testing kits for schools to distribute. In the absence of a test, AAP advises those showing symptoms to isolate for five days, then return with proper and consistent use of face masks for additional five days.
“We know that some schools have to close when there are staffing shortages in areas with widespread transmission,” Dr. Szilagyi said. “Those closures should be as brief as possible, and we encourage schools to offer virtual learning when in-person classes are not possible.”
“This is a challenging time, but we will get through it,” Dr. Szilagyi said. “Children are resilient, especially with the support of their families, friends, and other important people in their lives. This includes their pediatrician, who cares and is here to help.”