The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MS-AAP) and the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) have collaborated to help preserve the health of students, teachers, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud the decision made by governmental officials, Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), and the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA) at the onset of the pandemic to close Mississippi schools to protect the public health. The procedure to reverse this decision is complicated and should involve input from all interested parties.
MS-AAP and MSMA strongly feel that schools should make every effort to open in-person school safely this fall, while also considering the earlier White House guidance that cases in a given region or state should be on a downward trajectory before reopening. As experts in children’s health and development, we urge superintendents to consult with local pediatricians and other physicians regarding their district’s planning.
We are encouraged by the fact that young children appear not to be super-spreaders of COVID-19. Young children can become sick with COVID-19, but the illness tends to be milder and is usually contracted at home. On the other hand, older children and teens may be able to spread COVID-19 similarly to adults.
We strongly support the guidance for school re-entry published by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). We appreciate the flexibility of the school re-entry document published by MDE. Given this
Given this flexibility and current conditions in our state, Mississippi Physicians
advocate for the following minimum standards:
1) Delayed re-entry to at least September 1, 2020, to allow sufficient time to implement mitigation strategies, allow time for reduced COVID-19 transmission, and possible availability of financial assistance (state or federal) for schools to apply appropriate plans. Physicians call for a state-wide mask mandate to reduce viral transmission and facilitate safe school attendance.
2) Mandatory masks for all individuals in the school building, no matter their age. Children with certain conditions (such as intellectual disabilities) or in pre-kindergarten may require special consideration.
3) All Mississippi children should have the option for virtual learning for ANY reason, without medical justification.
Young children, those with Individualized Education Plans (IEP), 504 plans, and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds benefit less from distance learning. Schools should consider all possible ways to continue in-person for these children.