Intermountain Healthcare

Back to School: Keep Kids Safe with Masking, COVID Vaccine


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/15/2021 --With school starting next month, medical experts in Utah are concerned that COVID-19 cases could rise among children, especially with the prevalence of the Delta variant which transmits much more easily.

While COVID vaccines are available to kids ages 12 and up, it's not yet available to younger children.

Pediatric experts from Intermountain Healthcare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Utah Department of Health all agree, a layered prevention approach can minimize the impact of COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in school settings.

"Parents can protect young children against the disease by doing what has been shown to work well: having them wear masks indoors and practice social distancing. It's important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19," said Katrina Jensen, a pediatric nurse with Intermountain Healthcare.

The CDC is also recommending even vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings in areas of heightened transmission, so parents should model that behavior, even if they're vaccinated. While Utah law doesn't allow schools to require students to wear masks, parents can choose to have their children wear masks to help keep them safe.

COVID-19 can severely disrupt learning, school attendance, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Children can and do get COVID-19 and are at risk for severe illness from the virus. Even with mild illness, children can spread the virus to other people. This is why using layered prevention strategies in schools are so important.

"Elementary school-aged children did an excellent job wearing their masks last school year," said Jensen. "Masking minimized outbreaks and the challenges that come with them, including quarantines, missed school days, and the risk of infecting younger siblings and vulnerable family members."

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising among Utah residents, including children. Children have been hospitalized with the disease, experienced long COVID lingering symptoms, and in some cases, contracted Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a severe inflammation of organs including the brain and heart that can result in death.

Here are some ways to protect young children against COVID-19:

- Vaccinate family members ages 12 and up as soon as possible. Doing so can help ensure full immunity close to the time school starts, minimizing risk.

- Wear masks in indoor public settings.

- If you have questions about the vaccine, masking or related matters, ask your medical provider.

"Your family's doctor or nurse practitioner knows you and your children, and is happy to have a conversation with you about your questions and concerns," Jensen said. "Your primary care provider can provide factual information to help you make an informed decision about the vaccine, and other steps you might take to keep yourself and your children safe."

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.