ROCHESTER, Minn. - Just a few hours before Governor Walz announced school districts will be able to choose how they return to class in the fall, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and pediatric infectious disease physician answered questions on a Facebook livestream about reopening schools and transmission and symptoms of the virus in children.
"A lot of teachers have really put forth a strong effort and really tried their best in the most difficult circumstances, but it's really challenging and I think everyone kind of wants to try and get back to quality education for kids and have these discussions to figure out how we can best achieve that," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse.
She explains that schools were closed in the spring becuase of professionals' knowledge of other infectious diseases. For example, children play a large role in transmitting influenza, and school closures have been helpful in the past to stop spread.
Now, researchers know more about COVID-19 and the role children play in the pandemic. Some studies show children under 10 are half as likely to transmit the virus as older children. Numbers are also showing children are more likely to have mild or no symptoms at all, though Rajapakse notes it's important to remember some children have become severely ill or died from COVID019. Also, many of these studies were done while schools were closed, so we won't fully know the impact until children return to school.
If your child's school is returning to in-person or hybrid learning in the fall, Dr. Rajapakse recommends getting your child used to mask wearing sooner than later. She also encourages families to be flexible, have plans in place in case a child's school closes because of an outbreak, and to keep kids home if they have any COVID-19 symptom, even if it's mild.
With the state leaving the decision to return to in-person learning or not up to the school districts, the doctors note that community spread is high in some areas of the state, and low in others. "Those different areas will be very different and it's really important that everyone look at what is going on in their local area and community as they try and make these decisions. We know that countries who have done this successfully, those are the countries that have reopened in person schooling in the setting of low rates of community transmission," explains Rajapakse.
Click here to watch the full recorded livestream.