TAMPA, Fla. — As parents and children gear up for the start of a new school year, traditional first day jitters might be met with anxiety as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
The Delta variant is showing its spreading power and has forced families like the Cerasis to make tough decisions on whether or not to keep their 7-year-old daughter Lily home.
"It was very difficult. She's an only child and she's medically fragile so she already had conditions that made her more susceptible to getting sick," Jordan Cerasi, Lily's dad, said.
Lily suffers from juvenile arthritis and asthma which makes her immune system weaker than the average child.
"In multiple joints—mostly her knees and her ankle—she has pain and it flares up...It's sometimes dependent on how she's feeling or even sometimes if she catches like a mild bug or something like that it can set her immune system off," Cerasi said.
That combination can prove to be deadly if she contracts COVID-19.
That's why Cerasi and his wife made the tough decision to keep her out of the classroom this school year—at least for right now.
"We want her to be back in school. She loves her friends. I have literally witnessed her and her friends crying to see each other," Cerasi said.
Cerasi knows the benefits his daughter gains while being back in the classroom, but putting her safety at risk, he said, just isn't worth it.
Dr. David Berger has treated Lily and echoes the importance of having kids back in the traditional school setting.
"The benefits of being in school...the Academy of Pediatrics has said, the CDC has said—everybody is in conclusion that kids need to be in school. Kids learn best when they're in school," Dr. Berger said.
That being said, he does believe masks, which Governor Ron DeSantis has been adamant against mandating in schools, are imperative to slowing the spread of the virus.
"Certainly, I have more concern about kids bringing it home to parents and grandparents. Especially those who are not immune to COVID already," Dr. Berger said.
For Cerasi and his family, the inconvenience of a mask means his daughter can get back to leading the life she deserves.
"We need to have caution leading the way because we don't get to force or say when this is over. It will be over when it's over," Cerasi said.
Dr. Berger said he's noticed that Zinc and Vitamin D can help keep people's immune system strong.
He recommends that people get their blood levels tested to get an exact reading of how much Zinc and Vitamin D their body needs.