Local pediatricians offer guidance as kids prepare to head back to school

Coronavirus

The first day of school is quickly approaching in school districts across Illinois and many questions remain about how to keep children safe as COVID-19 cases rise.

Governor JB Pritzker is expected to announce new Covid protocols Wednesday afternoon.

It comes as school boards in Illinois debate mask rules.

The CDC recommended last week, students and staff members wear masks in schools, regardless if they’re vaccinated.

“Last year, our children had to wrap their minds around staying home,” said Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a pediatric psychologist with Advocate Children’s Hospital. “This year, they have to learn how to return.”

On Wednesday, some top, Chicago-area pediatric doctors shared their safety guidance for schools and vaccinations.   

“Talk to your children. Ask how they’re feeling about going back to school. Validate those feelings. Talk about expectations,” Roberts said.

The pediatricians are part of Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance in Wilmette. They applauded the expected announcement by Pritzker.

“We are asking today that anyone 12 and older who can receive the vaccine should do so as soon as possible,” Dr. Frank Belmonte said. “According to the CDC, just 25% of 12 to 16 year olds are considered fully vaccinated. It’s the lowest number for any age group.” 

The group of pediatricians say it has been a tremendous challenge for them to dispel the huge volume of misinformation on social media that has been widely blamed for confusing parents with falsehoods and unfounded information.

“It is not a wise decision to take a wait-and-see approach with your child’s health as we race against this highly contagious Delta variant,” Dr. Sharon Robinson, with Northshore University HealthSystem, said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports almost 72,000 children were diagnosed with the virus last week. That’s up from the almost 39,000 cases from the prior week. The figures last month began rising as the Delta mutation became the dominant strain in the country. More than 4 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19  since the pandemic began. 

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