Pediatric infectious disease expert answers your back-to-school COVID questions

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — The delta variant is surging across Colorado right now as tens of thousands of students head back to the classroom for in-person learning.

If you’re among the many parents who’ve been wondering what this school year might look like, or whether your child will be safe, we took your questions and concerns to a pediatric infectious diseases expert to get some answers.

Over Facebook, Nicole Lea Jones Burke asked: Are masks really enough to help protect our kids? There is 3 to 4 kids to a table in my son’s classes.

According to experts, masks are protective, but not by themselves.

“You have to do masking in conjunction with good hand hygiene, physical and social distancing so that students have to be at least three feet apart when they’re sitting in the classroom. There should be good ventilation in the classroom,” said Dr. Tina Q. Tan, a pediatric infectious diseases expert.

Monikaa Mariee asks: Are children being required to quarantine after an exposure?

“They will be. It’s going to be very similar to what we saw last year. If someone has COVID they’re going to have to quarantine. Because we know even someone who is still asymptomatic can still spread COVID to other individuals,” Dr. Tan responded.

Noel Elhardt wants to know: When can we realistically expect the vaccine for our children under 12 and how long might it take to see cases go down enough to remove masks in schools safely?

“It’s expected by the late fall we should have data from those trials and if everything looks good, maybe by the end of this year we will have a vaccine available to kids 5-11 and then at the beginning of next year kids 2-4,” said Dr. Tan. “In regards to mask, this is a very dynamic and very fluid situation. So I can’t predict when we’ll be able to lift these mask mandates.”

Shawn Clark asks: If an asymptomatic child with the delta variant is in class how many students will catch it?

“With the Alpha Variant, basically one infected person could infect 2-3 susceptible individuals, but with the Delta Variant, one infected person could infect 8-9 susceptible individuals. So a significant increase in the number of individuals who could be infected from that one individual person,” Dr. Tan explained.

Jamie Howard wants to know: At what point do you say there is too many kids testing positive and shut the schools down? 2 kids, 10 kids, half the school?

“Really the school districts should have in place a contingency plan should there be an outbreak or multiple outbreaks of COVID occurring in the school setting. But they’re going to have to decide what that cut-off is to determine when they would go back to virtual learning,” Dr. Tan responded.

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