Diabetes and Endocrinology COVID-19 Back-to-School Guidance
Returning to school
As the 2020-2021 school year draws closer, we anticipate that many of you, like many of us here in the clinic, are struggling with the question of whether it is safe to send your children back to school this Fall during the COVID19 pandemic.
Circumstances surrounding parental employment, child care, safety protocols in various schools, and health risks of others who live in the home with the child, all make it difficult to provide one right answer as to whether any individual child should return to in-person classes this Fall. Although we at Children’s Health℠ cannot make that decision for you and your family, we want to be a resource to help you make this decision, and so we have listed a number of things which we hope will help you decide what is best for your family.
School attendance in the Fall will carry some risk
- COVID-19 case numbers in the state of Texas - and in North Texas specifically - are rising quickly.
- Although schools are largely closed over the summer, over 1300 cases (as of early July) have been documented in Texas among children and staff who attend or work at childcare facilities. However, we don’t know how many of these cases were acquired at these facilities, or how these numbers compare to the risk of viral transmission at schools.
Children benefit greatly from in-person school attendance
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry
- Based on the best data available to date, children with diabetes appear to be at no greater risk of acquiring COVID than the general population.
- Most children and young people – including those with diabetes – are at a very low risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus.
A few points worth emphasizing, especially if you do plan to return your child to in-person classes this Fall
- Glucose levels matter. There is a lower risk of serious illness from coronavirus with improved hemoglobin A1c and/or time-in-range (if a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is available).
- All the factors that diminish one’s risk of infection in the general community (hand-washing, wearing masks, physical (social) distancing, not touching one’s face, frequently cleaning high contact surfaces, etc) continue to be important both in and out of school. Teach your children how to wash their hands. Demonstrate how to take off a facemask without contaminating oneself.
- Sick day protocols can lessen the stress of illness.
- Prepare a sick-day “bag” containing key supplies you might need to take care of your children on days they are not feeling well.
- Always keep ketone strips on hand, syringes for backup dosing for children on insulin pumps, and a clear understanding of how to dose insulin when your child is sick (remember to not ever completely skip their basal (long-acting) insulin). These tips can help keep an illness mild and lessen your child’s risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
- For more detailed information, read our Diabetic sick-day guidelines.
- We strongly encourage all families to speak to your primary care providers about when flu shots will be available in their offices and plan to get your entire families immunized as soon as possible this flu season.
- Communication with school staff has never been more important. Share your concerns about your child with your school nurse. Ensure they know how to reach you at all times. Work with your care team to make sure your child’s school management plan reflects your best understanding of what your child needs at school. Ensure a 504 plan is in place to keep everyone on the same page about accommodations your child needs for glucose testing, managing highs and lows, and any academic expectations.
- Keep your child home if they show any signs of illness.Talk to your child’s pediatrician about whether or not to quarantine them if they have had a known exposure to someone with coronavirus. Think ahead about childcare considerations in these circumstances.Talk to your school about what will be required for a child who shows any signs of illness to be allowed to return to school, as it may be different than in years past. Plan in advance.
Whether you choose to return your child to in-person classes this Fall or later, talking to your child about coronavirus can go a long way to helping them understand why things are going to look different at school, and helping them cope with these differences.