Sunday, August 7th 2022, 10:09 pm
Students across Green Country are heading back to school as health officials report the current COVID-19 strain making the rounds is highly contagious.
State Health Experts say the Omicron subvariant BA.5 is resulting in fewer severe cases than in previous surges, but they said schools need a robust sick policy and recommend a layered approach that can change based on the number of cases in your schools' county through the CDC’s Community Level Tracker.
Officials said healthy habits like establishing a good sleep schedule, a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and good hand hygiene help protect you from any infectious disease.
However, as a parent, Rashad Tottress is always worried about his daughter in Jenks Public Schools.
"With the new stuff that's going around, kind of iffy, and just not sure. You know, I really feel like we should be shut back down at some point in time," said Tottress.
Experts recommend staying home five days after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or getting a positive test if you don't show symptoms. They said students should wear a mask an additional five days after isolating.
Kendra Doughetry with the Oklahoma State Department of Health said getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect people from severe COVID-19 complications.
“It’s definitely, you know, a great consideration for parents who have kids who are going back to school as a way that they can help keep their kids safe when they start back to school. And the great thing is the COVID-19 vaccine is now eligible for children all the way down to SIX months of age,” said Dougherty. “[…] The covid-19 vaccine is not a requirement here in Oklahoma. It is an opt-in for the parents. They do have that choice.”
She encourages parents who have questions, concerns, and/or are still on the fence to have discussion with healthcare provider about the best option for their kids.
Dougherty said contact tracing is no longer recommended, but teachers should warn parents of a positive case in their class.
“[C]onsider a notification to the class. If there was a positive individual in the class, just send a notification out to the class. Let them know, ‘hey, you know, please be on the lookout for symptoms in your children. Consider quarantine, masking, testing depending on their vaccination status and their previous history for infection,’” said Kendra Dougherty, Director of the Acute Disease Service for the OSDH.
She said masking is something to consider and encourage if the community is at a high level for the schools' county.
"You just never know what your kid has until you like start looking at their signs cause you're not just testing them every five seconds," said Tottress.
Many Green Country schools have strict cleaning policies, provide PPE across campus, recommend masks, offer several learning options, and are prepared to pivot to distance learning.
Doughetry said some common infectious diseases went away during the pandemic.
“As we kind of relax on some of the COVID-19 mitigation measures, they will come back," said Doughetry.
She said monkeypox spreads much slower than COVID-19 and isn’t too concerning for schools right now.
“Number one, it’s not transmitted the same way that COVID is. You have to have really close prolonged physical contact with someone. It’s not just standing in the same room or standing in the same space. Because of that, it’s not near as easily transmissible. Yes, it seems like it’s transmitting really quickly, but it’s not transmitting to the same level that COVID is currently transmitting. So from the school perspective, as of right now at least, it is not a concern. Unless there’s very big changes in the way that it’s transmitting or the epidemiology, I think schools just need to add it into their policy, because it’s a good idea anyway from a sick leave policy, if you have lesions for any rash, you know this goes for MRSA or other kind of rash illnesses that are common in the school setting, if you have a rash it needs to be covered. You need to have it assessed by a healthcare provider to make sure that you don’t need to have any other kind of treatment for it,” said Dougherty.
Doughetry recommends schools add rashes to their sick policy.
Broken Arrow and Tulsa Public Schools are following their 2021 spring semester plans.
Union, Claremore, and Jenks' return plans will be reviewed by the districts' Board Of Education Monday evening.
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