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Local pediatrician discusses COVID-19 cases increasing in young people

Dr. Valerie Smith provides recommendations for parents sending their child back to school.

TEXAS, USA — A surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as millions of children return to school has sparked debate on what schools should do to stop the spread. 

The surge in cases is largely due to the Delta variant and as more children and teens test positive, it’s igniting conversations on measures to lower transmission when students go back to school. 

Dr. Valerie Smith, Tyler pediatrician and Chair of Texas Medical Association’s School Reopening Workgroup, shares conversations the workgroup is having amid school start dates in Texas.

“Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination," Dr. Smith said. "We're seeing more and more cases of COVID-19 among children right now. So parents, physicians, reasonably are really concerned about how to send children back to school safely.” 

Pediatricians say children and teens testing positive for COVID-19 are either experiencing immediate symptoms or a later inflammatory response three to six weeks after having the virus.

Each school district is making their own decisions on COVID-19 protocols causing more confusion for parents. 

Dr. Smith suggests parents look towards public health officials.

“I think it is really hard for parents to make decisions when they feel like they're being told one thing by a national source another thing by a state source," Dr. Smith said. "I would encourage parents to look at what public health officials are saying: adopting a multi-layered approach which includes masking includes social distancing and staying home if you are sick or symptomatic until you know whether you have COVID or not.”

Returning students to a traditional learning environment is important as long as it's done safely. Dr. Smith believes that includes masking for everyone in schools.

 “The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are all on the same page, that children and really everyone in schools this year should be masked, at least for the beginning of the school year, as we watch what's happening with the Delta variant," said Dr. Smith. 

County health officials met with local school officials to discuss the upcoming school year with cases on the rise. Tyler ISD’s return to school plan remains the same.