Doctor: Masks, distancing key to safe return to in-person classes


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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A pediatric expert laid out a number of steps parents and teachers can take to ensure their children don’t spread or contract COVID-19 during the return to in-person classes.

Dr. Patty Manning, the chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, laid out the four protocols during Gov Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefing Tuesday.

Manning said that as a pediatrician, she is in favor of in-person education and the benefits that come with it. However, she outlined for specific steps that must be followed in order to do it safely.

  • Masking – if everyone can wear a mask, then they should wear a mask
  • Distancing – six feet between everyone is optimal, but Manning said three feet is good, adding she understands how difficult it is to keep children six feet apart at all times, but “some distance is better than no distance.”
  • Hand hygiene – Manning suggested it be a scheduled activity and made fun for younger children.
  • Regular cleaning of surfaces – the doctor said that while cleaning is important, it is not the most important and that COVID-19 is not a hearty virus, meaning regular cleaning easily kills the virus.

“Together, they create a very robust package for safety,” Manning said.

Manning said good ventilation does slow the spread of disease, and that school’s have different levels of ventilation quality.

“Any time a teacher can open a window, take a class outside when it’s appropriate, at the discretion of the teacher, those are activities that can help as well,” she said.

Manning said the best way to help children deal with the stress of the new protocols that will be in place is to let them know it’s OK to be uncertain.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, we’ve been dealing with a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and sometimes children look to us for recognition and approval of that uncertainty,” she said. “Yes, we know it’s different, we know that things have changed, and that’s OK.”

Manning said the perception that children are somehow immune to the virus is false.

“I think it’s safe to say that if a child has COVID, they can be contagious whether they’re symptomatic or not,” Manning said.

She went on to say that since younger children often need closer contact, they may spread the virus more easily. Manning defined close contact as being under six feet away from the child for more than 10 to 15 minutes.

“Most young children need close care, you have to hold them or you have to feed them and you’re going to do that for longer than 10 or 15 minutes,” Manning said.

The doctor added that even though older children – 10 and up – usually don’t require close contact treatment, they are more active and tend to gather in groups more than younger children. However, there is no concrete evidence that suggests they spread the virus at a higher than normal rate.

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