The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as a public health, economic and educational crisis. Of grave concern is the continued impact on our education sector and the future of our children’s education.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs is currently managing the sixth COVID-19wave in country. To date we have recorded 23, 978 cases.
Given the increase in our daily positivity and infection rates, we expect to see increases in the number of school aged children diagnosed with the virus. What can we do to help ensure our children’s safety and well-being as we continue to navigate the pandemic?
It is crucial that students who are unwell not attend school. They should be assessed and tested for COVID-19 if deemed necessary by the health practitioner. We have learnt that symptoms of COVID-19 vary. Students may present with typical flu like symptoms such as cough, runny nose, fever. Others may have gastroenteritis like symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Some students may complain of headache while others may just be fatigued. If your child complains of feeling unwell, I urge you to do the right thing and get them assessed.
In addition, if one member of the household is experiencing symptoms and is awaiting results for COVID-19, keep other children home until the results are received. It is also important for children to be tested if one household member tests positive (meaning they are contacts of a positive case) to ascertain their status and to ensure the timely return to school.
Contact tracing is a process that relies heavily on the honesty and integrity of the persons involved. The information provided to the Ministry of Health is extremely important in helping us identify the close contacts of a case who can subsequently be quarantined and tested at the appropriate time. If you are informed by a representative from the school or the Ministry of Health that your child has been identified as a contact, please keep them in quarantine and observe for development of symptoms. Take your child in for testing immediately if they develop symptoms or otherwise on the day which was indicated for testing. This will help to break the chain of transmission and prevent outbreaks within our schools.
On this point, we have noted increased use of home rapid test kits. While it is useful for screening, the Ministry of Health requires confirmation of these tests with a PCR test. In the interim, it is absolutely important to report positive home tests to your child’s school so that the necessary steps can be initiated.
The Pfizer vaccine remains available for our 12-17 year olds which is the most affected group of children. Please consider vaccination for your eligible children and of course for yourself.
Personal responsibility cannot be emphasized enough. We all need to continue to observe the protocols and to speak to our children about doing the same. Washing our hands or sanitizing, proper wearing of masks and avoiding crowds have all proven to help reduce transmission. The pandemic has taken a substantial toll on both academics and the mental health of our children. School is absolutely essential and as our children have returned to the classrooms, let us ensure that we work to not only maintain a safe learning environment within the schools but in general so that schools can continue to run.
Take time to speak and listen to your child. Ask about their feelings, offer reassurance. Practice kindness and empathy. Remember anyone can contract COVID-19. We must all play our part.
For more information please contact the Office of the Chief Medical Officer or the Epidemiology Unit, at 468-5309/468-5317 respectively.