Safe School Reopening Remains Important During COVID-19

What risks and benefits need to be considered with the return of in-person classes?

As of this publishing, the US 7-day average for new COVID-19 cases is rapidly approaching 100,000—nearing the second-greatest climb of new cases of pandemic virus since March 2020—as the highly-transmissible delta variant surges.

Many efforts to again curb COVID-19 are at work, including rebuffed masking and social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as stated intent to fully approve emergency-authorized mRNA vaccines by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

How these strategies, as well as the surging delta variant, come to effect US children remains to be seen.

In a segment of an interview with Contagion, Jason C. Gallagher, PharmD, FCCP, FIDP, FIDSA, BCPS, Clinical Professor at Temple University School of Pharmacy, discussed the impending return of in-person classes during the 2021-22 school year.

As Gallagher noted, it’s important to note that a more infectious respiratory virus will benefit from close-contact classroom settings. But it’s also important for in-person class to resume for children.

“Theres no doubt that there is going to be influence on each other,” Gallagher said. “I think that we have learned, though, that schools…aren’t areas of transmission when things are done correctly, to the degree that I thought.”

Gallagher also discussed the advocacy of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the matters of in-person school benefits, the “problematic” unavailability of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, and the FDA’s timeline for expanded vaccine indications.

Later on, Gallagher also touched on the CDC’s changing guidance on masking and social distance mandates—matters which they showed leniency with just 3 months ago.

“With public health intervention, I feel like there’s never perfect timing,” Gallagher said. “Whenever they do something, half the people think it’s too early and half the people think it’s too late.”