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Vaccinations, masks create safe learning environments

As a pediatrician serving eastern North Carolina, as well as a father to school-aged children, I truly appreciate the important role that in-person education has on the health and well-being of students. Schools are where children make lasting friendships, learn important social skills and receive a high-quality education that prepares them for life.

As we learned from the last school year, the only way we can keep our students in the classroom is to keep COVID-19 out of schools. That responsibility ultimately lies with parents and adults. With the Delta variant continuing to spread, even among children, we must do all we can to protect students by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and practicing the common-sense safety measures that protect us all.

The Delta variant, which infects and presents serious symptoms in children at much higher rates than the original strain, is predominant in our community. In fact, it accounts for almost 100% of new COVID-19 cases detected through Vidant and ECU’s joint lab.

To protect our children and keep them in the classroom, it is crucial for everyone to wear a mask, especially if indoors and close together. Wearing a mask not only protects yourself, but also those around you. When all children are wearing masks in schools, only the person who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to go home and quarantine. If they are not wearing masks, the entire classroom, including the teacher, must be out to quarantine. Simply put, masks help keep kids in the learning environment.

In addition to masks, there are other measures we can take as parents to keep our kids safe. If your child is sick, keep them home. Do a quick symptom screener every morning to make sure they do not have a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19. Make sure your children routinely wash their hands and know how to properly wear masks.

If your child is eligible for the vaccine, get them vaccinated. If you are eligible, get vaccinated. Vaccines for school-aged children are nothing new, and the COVID-19 vaccine should be part of that routine if your child is eligible. Let’s do all we can to protect our community, keep our students in the classroom and give our children the best chance to succeed in their education.

For information on vaccines, please visit VidantHealth.com/vaccinate.

Dr. Matthew Ledoux is Pediatrician in Chief at Maynard’s Children Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.