About this time last year, communities were doing everything they could to protect children from COVID-19. For many kids, that meant virtual learning instead of attending school. Virtual learning environments were challenging for many families, and the sense of normalcy that school attendance this year provides is a welcomed one. Nevertheless, we must remember that the pandemic is not over yet.
Now that many kids have returned to in-person learning, how can we best protect them? We’ve gathered the latest information about COVID-19 and the Delta variant so parents can make educated decisions to support their family’s health and safety.
New challenges from the Delta variant
The Delta variant has taken over as the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S., and it’s different from the original strain we faced last year.
- It’s much more contagious than the variants we’ve been fighting so far. The Delta variant is believed to cause more infections and spread faster than previous forms of COVID-19.
- It might leader to more serious illness in unvaccinated people. The comparative severity of illness from the Delta variant is still being studied. So far, two different studies have shown that individuals infected with the Delta variant were more likely to need hospitalization than individuals infected with the original or Alpha variant of COVID-19.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines protect against Delta?
Yes! The vaccines currently available have been proven very effective at preventing severe illness and death. We also have seen that outbreaks of COVID-19 are less likely to occur in schools when teachers, other staff and students age 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
So-called “breakthrough” infections are still possible, because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. However, even with a breakthrough infection, people who are vaccinated are still strongly protected against severe illness and death.
We’ve seen that unvaccinated people are most at risk for getting infected, infecting others and needing hospitalization. That’s why it’s so important for everyone who is eligible for the vaccine, including children age 12 and older, to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
Are face masks still important?
Yes, masks continue to be an important tool. To protect our kids we need more than one approach, because:
- Children under 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination
- Many older children and adults are not yet vaccinated
- Social distancing can be challenging in certain settings
- Breakthrough infections are possible.
For all of these reasons, experts recommend that everyone wear a mask indoors in schools and other public areas, even after being vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends universal indoor masking in K-12 schools for all staff, students and visitors, except children under two years old.
Additional measures like screening tests and better ventilation may also be used by your child’s school or daycare center.
All of us can keep using handwashing and social distancing for extra protection beyond vaccination and masking. Together, these measures help us protect our families and communities.
Check out our blog’s COVID-19 resources page to learn more about this virus.