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Nemours offers advice on return to school as COVID concerns linger

Delaware Public Media

With schools opening for all students and a mask mandate in place for them, Nemours Children’s Health specialists explain how masks can keep kids healthy as the COVID-19 Delta variant makes its way through the state.

"Children over the age of two do well with masks. We can teach children to wear masks very successfully," said Dr. Kenneth Alexander, Chief of Infectious Disease at Nemours Children’s Hospital,

Alexander says masks are safe and do not cause issues such as hypoxia or carbon dioxide retention.

He does say children with autism and sensory disorders have been the only children with issues wearing masks, but they can be taught to wear masks correctly.

Alexander adds when school districts required masks be worn, it has worked to keep everyone healthier.

"Trials done at Duke and some of our other institutions show that when school districts have students wear masks they see a lower rate of student to student, student to teacher, and teacher to student transmission," said Alrxander. "Masks work at school."

He notes they’re not 100% effective, but adds that nothing is.

Alexander points out the opening of schools will likely increase transmission, and if infected, vaccinated parents could have mild COVID while unvaccinated parents could have more severe COVID.

He also anticipates vaccines will be available for children under 12 in the next two months.

Meanwhile, the uproar over the role of mask mandates and vaccines in schools can affect children as they get ready to go back to school buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nemours Children’s Health specialists say any issues kids have about masks usually stem from negative comments about masks from their parents and other family members.

Pediatric psychologist Dr. Meghan Walls says it’s okay to get support to help your children cope with masks or any other stress about returning to school.

"If your child - I think this message is really important - is having anxiety about going back to school or is feeling really frustrated all the time, part of that is normal,: said Walls. "But if you're concerned, if their behavior feels different, if school comes up we're talking about vaccines and masks and they seemed overwhelmed reach out to your pediatricians, reach out to your behavioral health providers. We want kids to be supported during this time because we know it's incredibly stressful."

Walls notes it can also be stressful for parents dealing with getting a child to wear masks or wondering if they should get their kids vaccinated.

She recommends reaching out to pediatricians and health experts for help and don’t go to Facebook or other social media.                                                                 

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
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