Risk Ranking of Back-to-School Activities

Millions of children are back in school. The new challenge they face, to avoid getting sick with the delta variant of COVID-19. The number of children hospitalized across the country is at its highest level in more than a year. Moms and dads have reached out to us, anxious to send their kids back to school for in-person learning. We published a survey, asking you what areas make you most nervous? We then asked our medical expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, to rank the risk of each spot. Waking up with a cough and a runny nose: high risk. If your child wakes up with any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, Dr. Adalja says the risk of transmission can be high, especially for unvaccinated children. Parents should have their child tested immediately, either at the doctor’s office or using a home test. Even if the test is negative, it’s best to keep your child home to prevent them from spreading any other type of virus. On the school bus: Low risk. In our survey, just over 25% of you were worried about school transportation. With open windows and door, good ventilation decreases the risk of COVID-19. Many school bus companies and districts have mandated masks, are social distancing children seated on the bus, require drivers to sanitize their buses between routes, and have hand sanitizer available for all children. Gym class: Medium risk. Since children exercise, breathe heavily and emanate more saliva particles from their mouths; the risk of transmission is higher. Especially if masks are not worn. This risk can be mitigated by opening gymnasium windows and doors or having gym classes outdoors. Classroom without a mask: medium risk. In our survey, almost 25% of you say you are concerned about the classroom. Children sitting in a classroom for hours means there is a medium risk of transmission. Opening windows, positioning desks 6 feet apart, wearing masks and having a teacher vaccinated will reduce the risk. Classroom with masks: Low risk. Dr Adalja says there is data that shows schooling could be conducted safely with masks and social distancing and that was the case even before vaccines became available. He says transmission was not driven by classrooms but by sports and extracurricular activities in the pre-vaccine era. Lunch in the cafeteria: Medium risk. This is the area that concerned nearly half of you when we looked at our survey results. When children eat, the masks fall. This risk can be mitigated by opening the windows for better ventilation in the cafeteria. Children should also be socially distanced and sit with their classes to reduce transmission. We know that outdoor transmission is not a major way of spreading the virus. Dr Adalja says schools should follow this and move indoor activities to outdoors, which decreases risk and decreases the need for masks. Morning carpool: Medium risk. If several families are carpooling, it is a medium risk. The risk can be reduced if you create a carpool module with only one other family. Medical experts are advising these adults to get vaccinated, everyone in the carpool should wear masks and the windows should be rolled down. Recreation: Low risk. Outdoor transmission is not a major way the virus spreads, so children on the playground and running around outside are generally safe.

Millions of children are back in school. The new challenge they face, to avoid getting sick with the delta variant of COVID-19.

The number of children hospitalized across the country is at its highest level in more than a year. Moms and dads have reached out to us, anxious to send their kids back to school for in-person learning. We published a survey, asking you what areas make you most nervous? We then asked our medical expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, to rank the risk of each spot.

Waking up with a cough and a runny nose: high risk. If your child wakes up with any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, Dr. Adalja says the risk of transmission can be high, especially for unvaccinated children. Parents should have their child tested immediately, either at the doctor’s office or using a home test. Even if the test is negative, it’s best to keep your child home to prevent them from spreading any other type of virus.

On the school bus: Low risk. In our survey, just over 25% of you were worried about school transportation. With open windows and door, good ventilation decreases the risk of COVID-19. Many school bus companies and districts have mandated masks, are social distancing children seated on the bus, require drivers to sanitize their buses between routes, and have hand sanitizer available for all children.

Gym class: Medium risk. Since children exercise, breathe heavily and emanate more saliva particles from their mouths; the risk of transmission is higher. Especially if masks are not worn. This risk can be mitigated by opening gymnasium windows and doors or having gym classes outdoors.

Classroom without a mask: medium risk. In our survey, almost 25% of you say you are concerned about the classroom. Children sitting in a classroom for hours means there is a medium risk of transmission. Opening windows, positioning desks 6 feet apart, wearing masks and having a teacher vaccinated will reduce the risk.

Classroom with masks: Low risk. Dr Adalja says there is data that shows schooling could be conducted safely with masks and social distancing and that was the case even before vaccines became available. He says transmission was not driven by classrooms but by sports and extracurricular activities in the pre-vaccine era.

Lunch in the cafeteria: Medium risk. This is the area that concerned nearly half of you when we looked at our survey results. When children eat, the masks fall. This risk can be mitigated by opening the windows for better ventilation in the cafeteria. Children should also be socially distanced and sit with their classes to reduce transmission.

Extracurricular sports/outdoor activities: low risk. We know that outdoor transmission is not a major way of spreading the virus. Dr Adalja says schools should follow this and move indoor activities to outdoors, which decreases risk and decreases the need for masks.

Morning carpool: Medium risk. If several families are carpooling, it is a medium risk. The risk can be reduced if you create a carpool module with only one other family. Medical experts are advising these adults to get vaccinated, everyone in the carpool should wear masks and the windows should be rolled down.

Recreation: Low risk. Outdoor transmission is not a major way the virus spreads, so children on the playground and running around outside are generally safe.


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