Just when it seemed as if the public health issues regarding schools were becoming clearer, the equation changed because of the emergence and predominance of the delta variant. The variant’s increased spread makes the need for more precautions at schools even more important than before, especially now that there is more in-person learning. The solution isn’t state mandates or threats — it is local policy, compliance and wisdom.
Pre-delta, multiple studies showed that children were far more likely to spread COVID-19 outside of schools than in school, that mitigating measures (masks, distancing, ventilation) along with regular testing were factors in a very low rate of spread (less than 2 percent) in schools. Most importantly, there was increasing evidence that being out of school for a prolonged period of time affected nutrition, behavior, development, and led to the loss of proper health screenings, increased anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. It was clear that schools, a mainstay in everyone’s lives, needed to remain open.
But delta has altered the COVID-19 terrain. For one thing, it appears to spread more easily (including among children) than earlier versions of the virus, and recent evidence shows that it is making non-immune people sicker (and children under the age of 12 are currently unable to be vaccinated) and in one disturbing case in California, an unvaccinated teacher spread COVID-19 to many young schoolchildren (26 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC).