Parents, Students Stress Over COVID As Back-To-School Season Nears

Right now, kids under age 12 can't get a COVID vaccine unless they're part of a clinical trial.
Posted at 11:58 AM, Aug 02, 2021

That first fall school drop-off is coming. For many families, it’s a fall fully back in class, and it's causing some worry.  

Just ask 12-year-old Janelle Velador. She’s going into seventh grade in East Palo Alto, California. But despite some spring and summer school in person, she’s still adjusting.  

"I was kind of nervous."

And for her mom, Evie, the nerves are the same. Even though Janelle is vaccinated against COVID, Evie's 8-year-old son isn't eligible yet.  

"Scary, because you just don't know what to expect. We thought we were almost out in the clear," Evie Velador said.

And then of course, there’s the Delta variant, spreading even among those vaccinated.  

"It's much more contagious than the common cold. It's about as contagious as chicken pox, which is a very contagious virus," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.

"Because it's the Delta. You know, it's it's getting worse. You know, once you think you're taking one step forward, you take two steps backward," Evie Velador said.

How worried should parents be about their child catching COVID in school this fall?  

"Rates of infection school are extremely low in general, probably lower than the outside community. So if your kids are going to spend their day somewhere, schools are the right place to spend it," Dr. Lynn Silver, a pediatrician and public health adviser at the Public Health Institute, said. 

The latest science shows overall, children who do get COVID are more likely to have mild symptoms. They can still transmit the virus, and they can still have potential complications. 

"It all depends on the prevalence in your area and the activities that you're doing. And so the amount of contact kids are having is a factor in the amount of contact they may have to people exposed. If you have a very high prevalence in the community, there is transmission to kids," says Dr. Michelle Prickett, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at  Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Michelle Prickett is a mother of three, two of whom aren't eligible yet for vaccinations. She says while she waits for that, there are still layers of other protection for children. 

"We need to think about having vaccination rates as high as possible for those students that are eligible. We also need to think about masking and ventilation are really the keys to making sure people are safe and then using our screening tools that we have," she said.

At Janelle’s school, that includes a once-weekly rapid COVID test. That's something that has given both her and mom peace of mind going into the fall.  

"There is nothing really to be scared about, they're just checking to see if you're sick or not," Janelle said.

"It makes me feel a level of certainty that we're going to be OK, at least when it comes to the kids bringing anything back from school," Evie Velador said. 

CNN contributed to this report.