NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The rapid spread of omicron and surging pediatric hospitalizations in Tennessee have parents wondering if the state and schools are prepared to do what’s necessary to keep kids in the classroom.
Without a doubt, children are catching and transmitting COVID just as adults are.
“It’s really important to remember that if you just have a whole lot of cases you’re going to have a whole lot of cases among kids,” said Dr. Loren Lipworth, an epidemiologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Some parents are responding by getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I’m here today to get my older daughter boosted and my younger daughter her first vaccine,” Jeffrey Barrie, a parent said.
With increased uncertainty in the omicron variant and COVID hospitalization among kids sharply rising, some are wondering if kids would be able to return to the classroom following the holiday break.
“I support it as long as the schools are taking all the precautions they need to be taking,” Huntley Robinson said.
So what is the state’s plan to keep kids in schools?
In a statement from the Tennessee Department of Health, recommendations are remaining unchanged.
“I will point you to our guidance that is on the website, which will soon be updated to reflect the new CDC guidance on quarantine and isolation. Our recommendation remains unchanged around testing.
Testing is available at all county health departments and I will also refer you to comments from President Biden on at-home testing being more available in January.
We also continue to encourage all Tennesseans to get vaccinated. School-aged children ages 5 and above are eligible for the vaccine.”Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson
Governor Bill Lee’s plan to keep kids in classrooms also remains unchanged according to his office:
“We continue to encourage parents to use the tools they have at their disposal – masks and the vaccine – to ensure their kids can learn safely.Governor Bill Lee’s Office
After the learning loss experienced due to time out of the classroom last year, we’re committed to safe, in-person learning with as little disruption as possible.”
But if the plans don’t work out, some say the poorest kids will suffer the most from learning loss if they’re pulled out of school.
“It’s really under the most needy kids, it’s the kids who really need it more when you can buy services for your kids, when you can buy people to come into your home and work with the kids — when you have grandparents who don’t have to work like us — we can fill in a lot of gaps but everybody can’t do that,” said John Tighe, a Nashville grandparent.
Nearly 40 kids are hospitalized due to COVID so far in Tennessee.