Marlaina Brown of Hartford has three children: none of whom are old enough to be vaccinated for COVID-19. So, she’s being cautious before sending them back to the classroom.
“We just got all of them a flu shot yesterday because who knows what they’re going to bring back from school,” said Brown.
As schools around the state reopen, thoughts of protecting children are atop parents’ minds.
“My little one, she’s touching everything. You never know who’s washing hands, who is sick or who’s not sick,” said Mercedes Alexandre of Manchester.
These concerns come as pediatric cases are rising nationally. CDC data shows an average of about 300 new pediatric hospitalizations per day over the week that ended August 22. Here in Connecticut, though, hospitalizations have been only slightly greater than the past according to one local doctor.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase but not nearly anything like the rest of the country,” said Dr. Beth Natt of Connecticut Children’s.
Dr. Natt cites the state’s high vaccination rate as a reason why there have been fewer pediatric hospitalizations here than other parts of the country. What has made things tricky, though, is the expanding list of symptoms, many which mimic that of the common cold.
“It’s pretty frequent that we get fevers, coughs, chills, runny nose. Sometimes you can have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Things like ear infections and sore throats. All those typical symptoms that we would see for a viral illness for a child all can come with coronavirus as well,” Natt explained.
If any of these symptoms present themselves, Natt said to get your child tested. She also says until vaccines are approved for all school age children, masks – which are mandated in Connecticut schools through September 30 – are the best defense.
“The masks don’t just help for coronavirus. They help for pretty much all viral illnesses and it’s really going to help us keep our kids healthy and safe," Natt said.
Waterbury Schools are preparing to welcome students back August 30. Yet, West Side Middle School Principal Peter McCasland said he feels like a year one teacher, feeling a sense of anxiety.
“I want to welcome the kids back, that’s why we all went into this profession, we want to see them here, we want to see them happy. The anxiety piece is just making sure we do everything possible to keep them safe,” he said.
To ensure student safety, Waterbury schools will enforce all state guidelines. Among the procedures put in place, students will be kept at least three feet apart during classes and six feet apart outside the classroom.
“Whatever we can do to make sure that we keep our students in school, learning is going to be really important,” said Will Zhuto, director of technology for Waterbury Schools.
Waterbury school officials say there will be additional emphasis on personal hygiene and disinfection within all school buildings. To remind students of the guidelines, posters have been hung and hallway traffic patterns identified with arrows. Like last year, there will be continued co-horting and visitors will be allowed by appointment only.
Zhuto said communication will also be a key factor moving forward.
“We know how to identify kids, we know how to communicate that out to families, know how to communicate that with staff,” he said, adamant that the schools are ready and prepared.