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Back to School COVID-Delta Advice for Onondaga County Parents and District Leaders: Return to What Flattened the Curve Before

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WAER Zoom
Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta talks with WAER Health Reporter Chris Bolt about her guidelines for schools to safely have children back on campus, as districts get ready to open classes.

Onondaga County’s Health Commissioner is out with COVID guidance, as many districts prepare to welcome kids back to campuses. WAER’s Health Reporter Chris Bolt reports caution is the watchword as the Delta Variant spreads.

At the core of Doctor Indu Gupta’s recommendations is the goal of getting kids back in school. She notes in-person instruction is best for learning … and even promotes better physical and mental health. Her advice really takes a three-pronged approach, starting with universal masking.

“Number two is vaccination.  We know that many school-age kids still have not received the vaccine.  So my ask to the parents is, ‘not only you get the vaccine, but also have your kids get the vaccine.  That creates much safer environment for not only your child, but also who’s sitting next-door to them.’”

And finally, ramp up testing once again to find anyone - even vaccinated people – carrying the virus and quarantine them , including contacts.

She further supports physical distancing and staying home with any signs of illness. Gupta notes reliance on these strategies is what helped flatten the curve of the virus during the worst surges.

Her recommendations also cover bus rides, sports and after-school activities, as well as meals in cafeterias. The advice in this report is aimed at school officials, but also at parents so they can protect their kids … and do what’s best for their education.

“They have had not only academic growth has been impacted, but their physical and emotional well-being have been significantly impacted.  So, the over-arching goal is to have kids back to school, but in a safe environment where they can thrive.”

(View the entire report Guidance for K-12 School Reopening: Getting kids safely back to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year here)

She emphasizes these are not her opinions, but recommendations based on C-D-C advice and other scientific findings. Onondaga County recently imposed a mandate that all school employees get vaccinated or tested routinely. New York State Education Department also dictates school regulations.

THIRD DOSE OF COVID VACCINE RECOMMENDED FOR SOME

Doctor Gupta also is issuing guidance on the third dose of vaccination recommended for some people. She says this is not a booster shot … but rather a necessary dose for people with conditions or treatments.

“Because those individuals who have compromised immune systems were not able to get good immune response.  So, to continue to have them in their journey to protect them, we need a third dose, that’s what FDA has said and what CDC has also accepted.”

People needing third shots include:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

Gupta says such conditions cover about 14,000 to 15,000 people in the County, who need the third dose to get fully protected. She recommends people see their doctor to figure out if the third dose is warranted. The county and medical institutions have not figured out the best way to offer the third doses, though vaccine availability shouldn't be a problem.