Message from Mary C. Grooms, M.D.
Dear Oak Hall Families,
As we look forward to the upcoming first day of school, we find ourselves in a very different scenario from this time last year. After a brief respite this past spring and early summer, we are now under the pressure of a new surge of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, the Delta variant has proven to transmit much more easily, including among children.
For the first time since the pandemic began, we are seeing significant child-to-child spread in unmasked preschool and elementary school age children, as well as enhanced spread between unmasked adolescents and teens. This surge has resulted in substantial increases in pediatric hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths due to COVID-19 locally and nationwide. We are seeing these increases in both medically complex children as well as previously healthy children. This is a concerning trend that is expected to worsen before the current surge subsides.
COVID-19 is not a benign illness. Rather, it can be quite unpredictable and unforgiving for many. I have personally cared for numerous children in my own practice who have suffered long-term complications or permanent organ damage from COVID-19 infection. Surprisingly, some of these children were completely asymptomatic at time of acute infection. I know more families than I can count who wish they had chosen differently with regard to their own child’s risk and exposure over the past 18 months. My sincere wish is for not one more child or adult to contract this virus and risk losing their health and vitality to it.
Currently, our local hospitals are at capacity, our ICUs are full, and emergency medical services are strained. It is not a good time for anyone to be getting sick in our community.
The Re-Entry Committee supports that it is reasonable to offer an opt-out of masking for some members of our school community this school year. I would like to urge every family to consider your choice carefully. Masks are a safe and effective mitigation strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 indoors. We consider anyone who is unvaccinated and unmasked at school to be at high risk to contract and spread COVID-19 amidst the current surge of the Delta variant.
The school is doing what it can with mitigation measures and protocols to open safely amidst the surge, but some of the responsibility to keep our children healthy and safe in school rests on our shoulders as the parents. Therefore, I would like every member of the Oak Hall community to consider continuing to mask indoors, at least until the current Delta surge has subsided, and preferably until the youngest members of our Oak Hall community have had their opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
With regard to the COVID-19 vaccine, if you have not done so already, I urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as you have access to the vaccine. If you have any specific questions or concerns about the vaccine, please be sure to discuss them with your personal physician or your child’s pediatrician at your earliest convenience.
It is imperative that we make careful choices for ourselves and our children during this challenging time. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Our children are more vulnerable now than they have been at any previous time in the pandemic. Let’s take care of them and make sure that their school year is as healthy and uncomplicated as possible.
Wishing everyone a healthy, safe and, productive school year. Take care, be well, and Go Eagles.
Mary C. Grooms, M.D.
General Pediatrician and Medical Advisor to the Oak Hall COVID-19 Re-Entry Committee