Back-to-school and COVID-19: what parents should know – Public Health Insider

Official insights from Public Health – Seattle & King County staff
It’s that time of year again. As much as we would like to hold on to Seattle summer, with its breezy outdoor fun, fall is almost here. Back-to-school means rain jackets, backpacks and kids spending more time indoors. Like we see almost every year, it’s easy for kids to spread germs like the common cold, influenza and COVID-19, as respiratory viruses are more easily spread indoors.
As parents, we want our kids to be safe and happy in school. We can send our kids to school with greater peace of mind knowing that we’re protecting them and others as best we can. This year’s back-to-school COVID-19 prevention guidance can also help to reduce transmission of other common respiratory viruses such as influenza.
Worrying about our kids getting COVID-19 while at school is no fun. And unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t going away. That’s why it’s very important to continue to wear masks, make sure your family stays up-to-date on vaccines, and to stay home from work and school and away from others for 5 days or more, when you or your children are feeling sick.
Here are a few things you should know about this year’s back-to-school COVID-19 requirements and safety guidance:
K-12 students in Washington State must be up-to-date on the vaccinations required for school on or before the first day. That’s whether they’ll be attending classes in-person or remotely. Along with pencils and notebooks, vaccines such as Tdap, DTap, MMR, hepatitis B, varicella, and polio may be on your child’s back-to-school list. There are also COVID-19, HPV, and meningococcal vaccines that your child may need to stay healthy and happy.
Health care professionals at our free vaccination events in King County will be on hand to answer your questions and to provide required immunizations. You don’t need insurance or proof of immigration status. Just bring along your child, their immunization records if you have them, and a book or toy to occupy them during the wait.
Many kids haven’t completed their first series of COVID-19 vaccines. Some of this is due to vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, or other barriers. It may help to know that the vaccines for kids are safe and well-tested. Trusted healthcare professionals like pediatrician Dr. Ben Danielson and Dr. Helen Stankiewicz Karita of UW Medicine, Dr. Ahmed Ali of the Somali Health Board, and Dr. Iman Yunis of Othello Pharmacy, agree that vaccinating your children is the best way to protect them and the community from serious illness that could make them miss school. They answer common questions from parents in a series of videos, like this one from Dr. Ben about why the vaccine is safe for kids.

To get your teens, tweens, kids and tots up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider or check our vaccine locations page. COVID-19 vaccinations remain the best protection for everyone against hospitalization and severe disease from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children 6 months and older. Booster doses are also available for children 5 years and older.
Be sure to pack a well-fitting mask into your kid’s backpack. And thank you for respecting people’s choices to continue to wear a mask. Wearing a high-quality mask remains an important tool in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19.
People who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or feel sick should wear masks to protect themselves and others when in indoor public spaces like school. Preschool and child care aged children ages 2-4 are encouraged to wear a mask with adult supervision. Babies and toddlers under age 2 should never wear masks.
Getting sick means at least 5 missed days of school and work, which can be especially tough on parents who can’t afford to miss days, or without access to child care. But it’s also so important for your family to get better and to keep COVID from spreading to others. If you or your child are showing symptoms of COVID-19, even if you don’t yet have test results, you should stay home to protect others. If you need food or other assistance while you isolate, please call the state COVID-19 information hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #1.
Parents and children who test positive for COVID-19 are required to stay at home and isolate for at least 5 days.  
Note: You will need to stay home for those 5 days, even if you test again and get a negative test during that time.
Learn how to do a COVID-19 self test for you or your child is the video below and remember to stock up on FREE COVID-19 self tests.
Protecting the health of our children also protects the school community, especially those most vulnerable such as immunocompromised teachers and classmates, and older adults like Grandma and Grandpa. We know it’s not easy to keep up with changing guidance but your efforts as we head back-to-school are critical. Thank you for all you do! 
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens, visit kingcounty.gov/vaccine/youth.
Originally posted on August 23, 2022.

 
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For more King County resources on COVID-19, please visit: kingcounty.gov/covid
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