Back to school after COVID-19
Children will be going back to school after COVID-19. Many parents are struggling with the following question, “Am I doing the right thing to send my child back to school now?”
Parents are wrestling with the decision to send their children back to school. This question triggers many emotions within parents. What complicates this question is that each family has a unique situation and circumstances.
Some facts to consider
Dr. Fiona Kritzinger, a paediatric pulmonologist (child lung specialist) from Cape Town says the following about going back to school:
- Children don’t play such a significant role in passing on the COVID-19 virus to others.
- It seems that less children are infected by COVID-19 than originally assumed.
- Children’s symptoms are very mild and in most cases unnoticed.
- Italy’s COVID-19 death rate is 80 000 of which no one was a child.
- Studies indicate that 80% of children who will get sick will have mild symptoms which won’t be more severe compared with other corona viruses like flu and influenza of past years.
- Less than 5% of children will really get sick and need oxygen.
- In South Africa between 500 – 600 children die of influenza every year. The risk for a child to be infected with COVID-19 is thus in context with previous year’s influenza rates.
- What differs with COVID-19 is the number of people who might be infected as well as the heavy load that might be put on our health care systems.
- Parents also fear the risk of other vulnerable family members. High risk ages are below one year and above 65 years of age.
- Children are usually more affected by viral infections like the “normal” virus and upper airway infections. Therefore kids have circling anti-bodies, which help to prevent COVID-19.
- The COVID-19 virus which binds to people’s cells, doesn’t bind well to children’s cells.
Simple acts can make the most difference
Dr. Kritzinger, further highlights the effectiveness of:
- Washing hands,
- Not touching the face,
- Wearing of masks (although pre-schoolers tend to constantly touch their masks as it seems to be uncomfortable, shift around, hurt their ears, and more).
These three basic personal hygiene steps would go a long way in protecting our children (and ourselves) when they go back to school.
Dr. Kritzinger indicated that should all precautions be in place from both the home and the school’s side, children can go back to school.
In another article about going back to school after COVID-19, written by two epidemiologists*, of which one specialises in infectious diseases mentions the following facts:
- Children are often assumed to be important conduits of infectious disease. This is true for influenza (or the common cold), but there is little evidence that children are important drivers of the COVID-19 spread.
- Children can acquire the disease, but the symptoms are often mild or completely unnoticed.
- Initial data from studies in China and Iceland show that children are not good transmitters of the virus.
- In detailed contact tracing from China, Korea and other countries, epidemiologists have encountered few instances in which children formed part of a transmission chain.
- In places where schools remained open, such as Iceland, there is no evidence they were important places of transmission. One detailed investigation of an infected nine-year-old boy in France did not detect a single secondary case after he had contact with 112 peers and adults at three different schools during his symptomatic period.
- The article clarifies that children are defined as elementary-school age and younger.
- It is thought that teens and adolescents have similar transmission roles as adults.
In a recent article published in Loving and Living** the author mentions that going back to school might be less uncomfortable for your child as it is may be for you. “Remember, your child trusts school as a safe space. They don’t have your anxieties about infections and risks – so don’t tell them anything that may lead to their worrying.”
Back to school after COVID-19, some practical tips
This article further highlights three practical things you as parent can do at home, to prepare your child for going back to school:
- Talk to them about the changes that they can expect, for instance that the classroom might look different than before. Let them practice wearing a mask, and wash hands.
- Your child might experience a certain amount of separation anxiety after spending so much time at home. Remind them about what the enjoyed at school, and the benefits of going to school, seeing friends again etc.
- Most importantly, make your child feel safe. Remind them that some countries have already passed the most dangerous point in the pandemic, and that we as a country have a plan to fight the virus as well.
- Remind the older kids that they would be playing an important role to help the smaller kids adapt to school again.
RSG Radiostasie and KykNET (May 2020)
* Parents are in two minds: Should I send my child back to school or not? National Post, Jay S. Kaufman and Joanna Merckx, April 22, 2020
** 3 things to do before your kids return to school, Published: May 29, Author Lisa Witepski, Loving and Living