As schools reopen in Northern Virginia, the risk of children contracting COVID-19 is real. But Loudoun County’s health director said that if children are vaccinated, wear masks and follow other safety measures, the risk of becoming seriously ill is tiny.
“There will be kids with COVID infection coming into the school system,” Dr. David Goodfriend told WTOP. “Our elementary schools are completely at risk because they’re all too young to get vaccinated.”
The delta variant of the coronavirus is also complicating the school year.
“The last time we looked, about 20 to 30% of the cases of COVID were in people who were fully vaccinated,” said Goodfriend. “Fortunately, none of those folks were severely ill, but in terms of risk to the school, anyone who comes in and tests positive is a potential risk to spreading to others.”
With isolated confirmed coronavirus cases in Loudoun County schools and throughout Northern Virginia, students and staff who may have been in close contact with positive cases are being quarantined.
Rappahannock Public Schools switched to all virtual learning for a week in hopes of mitigating COVID cases and returned to in-person learning Aug. 27.
Goodfriend said there are steps parents and children can take to avoid being asked to quarantine:
- Get vaccinated if you can. If you’re fully vaccinated, Goodfriend said, you could be 1 foot away from a COVID-positive student and remain in school. “Unless you get sick, or you have a positive test, there’s no interruption in your school.”
- Maximize distancing where possible. You are considered a “close contact” if you are within 3 feet of another student. However, if you aren’t wearing your mask appropriately, that distance extends to 6 feet.
- Adhere to mask guidance. That’s especially important to younger elementary school students, who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated.
For example, if a kindergartner spent the entire day wearing a mask, but 4 feet away from a student who tests positive, “You don’t need to be quarantined, as long as you’re feeling fine. If you weren’t wearing your mask, you’re sent home for two weeks,” Goodfriend said.
With the recent upswing in COVID cases, and uncertainty revolving around the delta variant, some parents are seeking the return to distance learning.
“Giving a virtual option is a school decision,” Goodfriend said. “But [as] a public health decision, we want to keep the schools open, and the schools safe. We recognize a school district shutting down has significant negative impact on children in multiple ways.”
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