Local pediatrician says masks are best protection against COVID-19 in schools

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Chatham County, many students are heading back into the classroom.

Parents have shared concerns about sending their children back to school amid rising COVID-19 cases with WSAV News 3.

Experts say there is not one way to completely stop the virus in schools. But, multiple layers of protection can help cut down the spread among students.

“I get it. I have kids in school too. I’m a little bit nervous about it. But COVID is here to stay and so I think we learn how to mitigate risk factors,” said SouthCoast Health pediatrician Dr. Blaine Crosland.

Dr. Crosland said children can easily carry and spread the virus quickly – a reversal of what health officials thought earlier in the pandemic. But returning to in-person learning remains a top priority for pediatricians.

“I think there are countless social and educational benefits to children being in school,” Dr. Crosland said. “I think we can do it in a safe manner such that schools are not being shut down because half the school has COVID and we no longer have teachers to come in.”

Dr. Crosland said the best way to keep students healthy at school is to wear a mask.

“Most pediatricians are in agreement that kids should be wearing masks when they’re in school,” she said. “We do think it’s important that kids are in school in-person and that wearing masks will allow them to stay in school and stay well.”

Masks have proven to also slow the spread of other illnesses, including the flu, according to Dr. Crosland.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, which resumed in-person learning on Wednesday, is one of four in the Coastal Empire requiring masks for students and staff.

Dr. Crosland also recommends kids frequently wash their hands, quarantine if exposed to the virus or feeling sick, and consider getting the COVID vaccine if they are eligible.

COVID concerns in children extend beyond physical health. Dr. Crosland said she has seen an increase in anxiety and depression during the pandemic and with back to school.

“Kids have been home for the last year, they have a lot of concerns about potentially getting sick while they’re at school,” she said. “I think it’s important to check in with your children every day when they come in, really take time to debrief, see how they’re doing.”

With the return to a consistent school schedule, Dr. Crosland hopes the mental health struggles in children will lessen. If your child is displaying symptoms of anxiety or depression, Dr. Crosland recommends checking in with your doctor.

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