Last year, we did all we could to protect our children from COVID-19. For many communities, this meant virtual learning. It was a challenging time for families. Thus, many of them are grateful for the sense of normalcy that returning to an in-person school year provides.
However, it is important to remember that this pandemic is not over. We want parents to be aware of the latest information about COVID-19 and the Delta variant so you can make informed choices for your family’s health and safety.
What’s different about the Delta variant?
Delta is now the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States and has a couple different characteristics:
- It’s more than twice as contagious as the variants we’ve been fighting so far.
- Experts believe that it causes more infections and spreads more quickly than previous forms of the virus.
- It might cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people.
This is still being studied. However, in two different studies so far, people who were infected with the Delta variant were more likely to need hospital care than people infected with the original COVID-19 or the Alpha strain.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine protect you?
Yes! The good news is that the current vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness and death. In addition, we know that when teachers, staff and students age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, outbreaks in schools are less likely to occur.
It’s true that no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and “breakthrough” infections are possible. If a breakthrough infection happens, a vaccinated person is still well protected against severe illness and death.
It’s clear that people who have not been vaccinated are at the greatest risk of getting infected, passing that infection to others and becoming severely ill – or worse. 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.
What about wearing face masks?
Masks are still very important. We need to use more than one strategy against COVID-19, because:
- Children younger than 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination
- Many older children and adults have not been vaccinated yet
- Social distancing can be difficult in some settings
- Breakthrough infections for vaccinated kids are possible
For these reasons, even people who have been vaccinated should wear masks indoors in public areas, including in schools.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends universal indoor masking in K-12 schools for all staff, students and visitors, except children under two years old.
Your child’s school or daycare center may take additional measures such as improving ventilation and using screening tests.
Each of us can continue the tried and true methods of handwashing and social distancing as extra precautions beyond vaccination and masking. All these measures help us protect ourselves and one another.
Check out our blog’s COVID-19 resources page to learn more about this virus.