Dr. Jennifer Schroeder and Katie Powell, PNP
Summit Medical Group Oregon (SMGOR) pediatric providers, Dr. Jennifer Schroeder and Katie Powell, PNP, respond to some back-to-school concerns parents have as their children head back to the classroom amid this pandemic.
Q: What do you see as the risks and benefits of reopening schools?
A: Much like many parents right now, I too worry about my patients and my own children becoming infected with COVID-19. Although this is certainly possible, there are a few scientific facts that help alleviate some of my own anxiety. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under 10 are far less susceptible to contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19. Additionally, research has shown that when infected, young children have a much milder disease compared to adults, and children under the age of 10, are far less likely to spread the virus to other children and adults.
Schools are vital to childhood and adolescent development and well-being, so as both a parent and a pediatrician, I believe that the benefits of reopening schools far outweigh the risks. Many families also rely on school services to keep their children safe. Although virtual school provides educational opportunities, it does not provide the same opportunities for socialization, physical activity, and nutritional services.
Q: What do we know about COVID-19 outbreaks in the school setting?
A: Fortunately, studies have found that when proper safety measures are in place, opening schools does not increase the community transmission of COVID-19. The key here, of course, is the implementation of and adherence to proper safety measures. There have been large outbreaks after resuming in-person school both in the United States and abroad when strict face coverings and physical distancing were not enforced, says the World Health Organization.
Recently, a research team from Duke University tracked eleven school districts with nearly 100,000 students and staff during a nine-week period of in-person school.5 They concluded that there were no instances of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2.5 Other studies have examined outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools and found that the outbreaks occur through the adult-to-adult transmission. This means that in order to safely have our kids back in schools, we have to advocate for monitored social distancing and proper personal protective equipment, such as masks, for children as well as their teachers and caregivers.
Q: What should kids do — in and out of school — to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19?
A: Most importantly, keep your child home when sick or if they have been exposed to COVID-19. Parents should help their kids keep up with frequent hand washing, reinforce the importance of covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and enforce appropriate mask use and physical distancing. Additionally, schools should limit the mixing of classes, and ensure adequate crowd control during school pick-up and drop-off.
Q: Many parents have been wondering – Is it safe for children to wear a mask all day?
A: Absolutely! Masks have been worn by health care providers since the 1930s, often for 12+ hours a day.6 There is absolutely no evidence that masks decrease oxygen levels or increase carbon dioxide levels in healthy kids and adults.7 Oxygen and CO2 are very small particles and can easily pass through a face mask. 7 According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of children, even those with medical conditions, are able to safely and effectively wear face coverings with adequate practice, support, and modeling from adults. Children younger than two years of age, and anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance, should not wear a mask.
Q: Should I get my child tested for COVID-19?
A: In general, if your child has symptoms of a cold (runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough) or has had close exposure to someone with COVID-19 (defined as within six feet for a total of 15 minutes with or without a mask), they should be tested. Timing and choice of the test are important, so be sure to seek medical advice. Myself and my colleagues at SMGOR are available for in-person or virtual appointments for same-day COVID-19 testing.
SMGOR pediatric provider Dr. Jennifer Schroeder currently practices at the Old Mill District Clinic located at 815 SW Bond Street, in Bend. However, on March 29, Dr. Schroeder will be moving her practice to SMGOR’s new Eastside Pediatrics Clinic located at 2400 NE Neff Road, Suite B, in Bend. SMGOR pediatric provider Katie Powell, PNP will continue to practice at the Old Mill District Clinic and one day a week at the new Eastside Pediatrics location once open. To schedule an appointment, please call (541) 706-2555.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations. 2021. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID guidance for safe schools. 2021.
- World Health Organization. What we Know About COVID-19 Transmission in Schools. 2020.
- Christakis DA, Van Cleve W, Zimmerman FJ. Estimation of US children’s educational attainment and years of life lost associated with primary school closures during the coronavirus disease. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11)
- Zimmerman KO, Akinboyo IC, Brookhart MA, et al. ABC Science Collaborative. Incidence and Secondary Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Schools. Pediatrics. 2021
- Adams LW, Aschenbrenner CA, Houle TT, et al. Uncovering the History of Operating Room Attire through Photographs. Anesthesiology 2016; 124:19–24.
- American Lung Association. From the Front Lines: The Truth about Masks and COVID-19. 2020. https://www.lung.org/blog/covid-masks