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Letter to the editor: Bryan Schools need to mask up
Letter to the Editor generic


Covid numbers are rising, and my child is wearing the only mask in his classroom I am a parent of children enrolled in Bryan County Schools, and a family nurse practitioner. The way our school board has chosen to address COVID-19 mitigation is dangerous. “Encouragement of face coverings” is not enough.

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have stated that universal masking in schools is necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but the school board rejected the advice of scientists and doctors when they announced their policy of “mask-choice” and optional post-CV19 exposure quarantines.

This policy puts our children, and the entire community, at risk, and this isn’t just about COVID-19, but let’s start there.

The Delta variant is not behaving like the novel virus we encountered during previous COVID surges: *It is more contagious *It is infecting the unvaccinated AND the vaccinated *The viral load is higher, and consequently patients are sicker *Younger people and those without preexisting conditions are being hospitalized, including children *Most of those infected do not experience the hallmark symptom of loss of taste and/ or smell which leads to false confidence and increased spread You may have noticed it is harder to get a COVID testing appointment in our community. There are more people seeking testing than there are appointments available in our community. On Sunday night, I tried to schedule a COVID test at, and the next available appointment in Richmond Hill or Savannah was Tuesday for a PCR test and Thursday for a rapid test.

What does this mean for our kids in school?

If a student told his mother he didn’t feel well before going to bed Sunday evening, he would not have the results of a COVID test until Thursday. This student wakes up Monday morning with a runny nose, but he doesn’t have a fever, and mom and dad both have to work. They send him to school thinking, “It’s just allergies.” Monday night he spikes a fever and stays home until the results of his test come back positive on Thursday evening. Per school board policy, his close contacts are then notified first thing Friday morning. Now, all of the students and staff have been at school for several days potentially continuing to spread COVID, not even knowing they had been exposed. I estimate about half of the close contacts continue to attend school after notification. You can see how easy it will be for COVID to tear through a school without policies in place to slow the spread.

Last week 17 students and 10 staff members reported a positive COVID test according to a mass email from Superintendent Paul Brooksher. Information was not made available regarding the number of close contacts notified, or if those close contacts would be participating in post-exposure quarantine or returning to the classroom.

In addition to COVID testing sites being overwhelmed, hospitals in our community are at or over capacity. Ambulances are parked in the bays waiting for a bed to open so they can transfer their patient and respond to the next call. They are often told to re-route to hospitals as far as Jesup and Statesboro because there are no beds available in Savannah or Brunswick because they are full. If you arrive at a hospital with an emergency and there are no beds, you have to wait, or go elsewhere. If you do not get the care that is needed in a timely manner, you could get much sicker. If it takes too long, there can be permanent damage. You may die.

Last week, over the course of 4 days, 93 Georgian children died. This number is pediatric mortality from all causes, according to a briefing from the GA Dept of Public Health. One of these children died from COVID-19. When the healthcare system is overburdened, more people die, and that includes children.

We need to do EVERYTHING we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s not just about people living or dying from COVID. It’s estimated that ¼ to ⅓ of those who are infected with COVID have long-term health implications. What is going to happen when I have to tell your child the infection has damaged their heart or lungs and they can’t safely play sports any more? How will you tell them you didn’t do everything you could to protect them?

There are some easy things you can do to protect your kids and our entire community: *Please send your child to school with a clean mask and encourage them to wear it properly *Please wash your hands and disinfectant surfaces *Please stay home if you’re sick and schedule a COVID test as soon as you find out you’ve been exposed or symptoms arise (whichever is first) *Please get vaccinated and encourage others to do the same.

If we are to have ANY hope of keeping schools open, and our children safe and healthy, Bryan County Schools needs to revise it’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy to include universal masking and enforcement of post-exposure quarantines.

Do you want the schools to have to shut their doors? Do you want to go back to e-learning? I know I don’t. If we don’t do something, that is exactly what is going to happen, and soon. And you know what? It may happen anyway, but at least we’ll be able to say we did everything we could.

Kate Strickland, Richmond Hill

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