For our late August issue of Coalition Connections, we asked Lisa White (pictured right), one of the Public Health Nurses from the FRCOG’s Cooperative Public Health Service, to answer some questions that have been on our minds recently about COVID as the school year starts. More from other nurses coming soon!
How do local rates of infection compare to when schools re-opened last year?
Rates of infection have increased over the last few months. Although not as high as they were when some local districts re-opened for in-person schooling, this increase in COVID rates is being carefully watched. A great resource for learning what is going on in your area can be found on the MA DPH website: www.ma.gov/covid-19.
Who is getting infected now?
COVID infection can occur in anyone. Most infections now are occurring in younger people who may not be vaccinated, particularly children and young adults. Breakthrough infections do occur in vaccinated people, as they do with any vaccine, but vaccinated people are less likely to become very sick with COVID or to need hospitalization. Vaccinated people can transmit the infection to others, but there is significant evidence that they are generally infectious for a shorter period of time.
What else has changed?
We know a lot more now than we knew when the first human COVID-19 infections occurred, including a lot more about how the virus transmits and how infection can be prevented. Physicians also know a lot more about what works in the treatment of people who are infected and sick with COVID-19. We’ve also learned a lot about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. COVID vaccines are safe and they save lives. While COVID-19, like all viruses, has mutated and changed, the vaccines we have remain very effective at preventing severe illness.
What hasn’t changed?
For those who are eligible, getting vaccinated is still the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and people who are immunocompromised or unvaccinated (including kids!) healthy.
Wearing a face covering when not at home, keeping distance from others in social settings, and washing hands often are also very effective ways to prevent transmission.
Outside activities where air is freely circulating provide a safer setting than indoors.
What should we tell kids about COVID right now?
Germs are part of life and kids can take safety steps to reduce risk of getting infected and sick with COVID-19, just like with many other infectious illnesses.
Wearing a mask and keeping distance from people (who aren’t in our household or COVID pod); not sharing cups, water bottles, utensils, or anything we put our mouths on; washing hands regularly; and covering coughs and sneezes (with our elbows is a good way) are the important steps everyone can take.
While COVID 19 is more dangerous to all people because it is a new virus, most kids who get sick with COVID experience flu-like symptoms much like illnesses they have probably already had.
If kids feel unwell, it is important to tell a parent or caregiver and stay home until they feel better.
Eventually, we think a vaccine that is appropriate for younger children will be available for COVID-19.* Until then, older kids and adults can protect younger kids from illness by being vaccinated and taking the same safety steps younger kids can.