Some local schools are easing into in-person learning after a year of remote classes, and while the shift comes with some risks, health officials said simple precautions can help protect students and school staff.
The number of COVID-19 cases has been on an upward trend among younger residents in Monroe County for the past few weeks. County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza has attributed that increase to spring break activities, competitive ice hockey -- which has since been suspended -- and the presence of the U.K. variant, which is more transmissible though not more deadly.
About 46 members of the Brighton Central School District community are quarantining after nine positive cases were reported on Wednesday at Brighton High School.
Those infections may have come from a social event that was not school-sanctioned, according to the district, and the Monroe County Department of Public Health has requested students who may have been in contact with potentially positive cases to quarantine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, evidence suggests that anywhere from 16% to 50% of children and teens who have contracted the coronavirus are asymptomatic carriers.
Dr. Steven Schulz, pediatric medical director with Rochester Regional Health clinics in Monroe and Ontario counties, said Friday that if a child does show symptoms, parents should err on the side of caution and keep them home.
“The (symptoms) that we worry the most about are fever, sustained headaches that are unusual for your child, loss of taste or smell or especially if they have had any symptom and have had any exposure to someone with COVID-19, they should definitely stay home,” Schulz said.
With schools returning to in-person classes, Schulz said it’s crucial to remind students about the importance of wearing a mask when not home, “especially outside of school when they might be getting together with friends or just on their own.”
However, the same efforts that help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, like masking, hand washing, and social distancing, seem to also help prevent other illnesses like ear infections and the flu, Schulz said.
“We’re just not seeing nearly as much as past seasons. So in that sense, that’s a good thing. We’re seeing our kids stay healthier during the school year.”