OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Health Department reported 29 children under the age of 18 are fighting COVID-19 from a hospital bed with less than a month before some children go back to the classroom for the fall semester.
“It’s going to be tough in that setting with low vaccination rates and a contagious variant to stop the spread of disease,” said OU Health’s Chief COVID-19 Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler.
Dr. Bratzler said classrooms are the perfect playground for the new delta variant to spread, even for vaccinated Oklahomans.
“If you have a crowded indoor setting, the COVID virus can transfer via aerosols, which can spread much farther than six feet,” said the doctor. “The old six foot rule, in my opinion, is completely arbitrary.”
Dr. Bratzler and the American Academy of Pediatrics are adding two crucial pieces of back-to-school homework for parents.
- Make sure eligible family members get the shot.
“If we look at 12 to 17-year-olds that can [get the vaccine], only about 20-percent or so have been vaccinated,” said the doctor.
2. Make sure students and school staff wear face masks even if you’re vaccinated.
“Masks are an effective strategy for preventing the spread of infection, especially for kids who are younger, [and] especially for kids who are not vaccinated,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
In May, Governor Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 658, preventing schools from mandating vaccines or masks for kids who haven’t had the shot. At the time, bill authors said it was about personal privacy and choice.
“To force kids to wear masks or to be vaccinated against their parents’ wishes, I don’t know. I don’t think we should be doing that as a government,” said Sen. Rob Standridge (R) Norman.
“We just recommend that all kids wear a mask,” said Dr. Bratzler. “We don’t single out unvaccinated versus vaccinated.”
The doctor said that will also be important, because the delta variant is still infecting vaccinated people, causing breakthrough cases.
“They get infected and potentially could spread the virus,” said Dr. Bratzler.
KFOR is still waiting to hear if some school districts will change their COVID-19 policies because of the rise in hospitalizations. Oklahoma City Public Schools said it will release its updated COVID-19 safety plan on Tuesday.