(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) School districts around Northwest Missouri are preparing to head back to school and finish up the first semester or start the second semester.
As parents plan to send children back into classrooms for in-person learning, experts are helping break down COVID-19’s impact on schools and safe practices for returning to school following the holiday.
While some school districts will hope right back into in-person learning, St. Joseph public school students head back to class this week finishing up their first semester in a hybrid learning format. The blended learning format, where students will receive both in-person as well as virtual lessons, will start on Jan. 5 and end on Jan. 14.
Dr. Amanda Williams with Peacock Pediatrics said she is encouraging parents and students to perform a daily wellness check before heading back into the classroom. If a student has “even minor symptoms”, Williams said it’s best for the child to stay home, and if symptoms persist get tested for COVID-19 before returning to school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms reported are cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fever, body aches or chills, a new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
The symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from flu symptoms but the odds are in COVID’s favor this year. Peacock Pediatrics has yet to get one positive flu case.
“We have not had any positive flu tests so far this year. I had one parent that tested positive for the flu and so we tested that child and that child was negative,” Williams said. “I have had a couple of other negative flu tests but we have not seen any influenza yet this season which is incredible and speaks to how social distancing is helping keep general viral infections kind of at bay.”
But Peacock Pediatrics has seen plenty of children test positive for COVID-19. Including two out of two tested positive for the virus Monday.
“The month of December our numbers were at about 15 percent positivity which I think is pretty consistent with what’s been seen in our community as well,” Williams said. “We have had weeks where we’ve been as high as 40 percent though so we’ve seen some fluctuations there.”
She notes there are cases where children have developed severe or a fatal COVID-19 illness but fortunately a vast majority of children who catch the virus, experience minor or mild symptoms.
“We’ve just not seen that locally,” Williams said. “That doesn’t mean that we can slack off on any of the precautions that we taking.”
She said this is even more important now that children are heading back to school from the holiday break.
“We are really hopeful that we can get kids in school and keep them in school because we know that they do better academically. They need that social interaction for their mental health which we’ve seen just a ton of, you know, kids who are struggling with depression, anxiety all kinds of things because we’ve upset the whole apple basket as far as their lives are concerned,” Williams said.
She also encouraged parents to set a positive example of infection prevention strategies in front of children.
“Please be diligent in front of your kids because your kids will do what you do so if your kids see you masking and washing your hands and avoiding gatherings that becomes just the norm and then its not as much as a struggle so be cognizant of the way you speak to your kids about it,” Williams said.