Local health expert discusses back-to-school safety amid omicron spread

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Monday, most Oklahoma kids returned to grade school for the first time since Christmas as the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the country.

It’s looking likely that back-to-school will bring more than homework to households in Oklahoma once again.

“I think there’s a substantial chance we’re going to see an increased outbreak in Oklahoma as schools reopen,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, Chief COVID Officer with OU Health.

Bratzler says he expects the more transmissible omicron variant to impact Oklahoma grade schools.

All of this coming in what’s typically the season for other viruses like the cold, RSV and the flu.

While he says flu cases haven’t been significant yet, there’s been a jump in children being hospitalized with COVID, but those statistics sometimes need a closer look.

“When you dig down in those numbers, what you find is a number of those kids are being admitted to the hospital for other things,  perhaps RSV or other viral infections and then they happen to test positive for COVID also,” said Bratzler.

However, he says he doesn’t want to downplay the risk of children catching COVID.

“Particularly when they recover, some will come back in a month or so with MIS-C and that’s really concerning,” said Bratzler. 

According to the latest data, only around 6.5% of Oklahoma children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated against COVID, while around 33% in the 12-17 age group have had both shots.

Bratzler urges parents to get their kids vaccinated, and make sure they bring their mask to class.

“The most effective mask is the one a child will wear,” said Bratzler.

Bratzler recommends unvaccinated children who are exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine for at least five days and get tested before returning to school and wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.

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