ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – As COVID-19 cases rise once again, plunging the United States into a fourth wave of infections, concern is growing as families gear up to send students back to school in just under a month.
Though many children have been back in school full-time since January, health officials are concerned schools could become a breeding ground for new infections given the highly contagious Delta variant.
“This infection can be devastating and cause severe illness and even death in some populations,” Justin Nistico, an infectious disease doctor with Arnot Ogden Medical Center, said. “You want to try your best to try and protect your child.”
Numerous pandemic precautions are being discussed by local schools and health officials regarding how to keep students and staff safe.
With masking, with kids getting vaccinated as soon as they are eligible to get it, with their family members being vaccinated and with appropriate social distance, I absolutely think that kids can go back to school safely with all of those caveats,” Pediatrician Dr. Philip Heavner said.
Andrew Cuomo also offered his opinion on how exactly to do that at a press conference Monday morning. He argued cities should require the vaccine for teachers in certain parts of the state.
“I believe school districts should say -today- teachers, vaccine or test, if you are in a CDC high-risk area, the red or the yellow zone,” Cuomo said. “I think they should say that today to the teachers in this current situation. “
The New York State United Teachers Union fired back and said in part “We would support local efforts to encourage more vaccinations… what we have not supported is a vaccine mandate.” The full statement from the NYSUT can be found here.
The United States Department of Education also provided a roadmap for schools opening their doors in the fall.