Letter: Preventing COVID-19 in our schools

When my son attended elementary school in Crystal Lake he learned that his school was a community. Everyone had an important role to play. Respect for others was necessary for their school to thrive. We are now in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which most of us have never seen. Once again it seems like we need to learn these lessons of caring community and respect.

COVID-19 is still in our community. We now have a vaccine that everyone age 12 and older is eligible to receive. Unfortunately, this leaves all children under 12 still vulnerable to this deadly virus. I say deadly virus because it kills children at twice the rate of influenza and has hospitalized thousands of children. Persistent shortness of breath, heart problems and prolonged loss of smell are just a few long-term effects that I have seen in pediatric patients.

I have also seen the psychological damage that lack of in-person school and the cancellation of sports and social clubs have caused. We all want our kids back in school, but we want to see them back in school safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement supporting universal masking for all children returning to school. The CDC and IDPH support and strongly recommend masking indoors for all unvaccinated children. Unfortunately there has been a tidal wave of misinformation regarding masking and children. It is important, now more than ever, to follow the science.

Masks work along with other mitigation strategies to prevent disease spread, including COVID-19. When mask mandates went into effect we all saw a sharp decline in illnesses like the flu this past winter. Even though your child may not be at high risk for a serious COVID-19 infection, his best friend might be. It is time for us to remind our children that we live in a caring community. Let’s ensure that our school models the respect and caring community that my son learned about all of those years ago.

Lisa Messinger, MD, FAAP

Crystal Lake