But the variant can fuel outbreaks in unvaccinated communities and populations.
“We are vaccinating more people every day, but we are not on our way to interrupting the transmission until the fall,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Colorado. “Unless we can do that, almost everyone I know in the field is very concerned about an increase in falls.”
Children are far less likely to develop the virus or its variants than adults. Less than 2 percent of children with Covid-19 end up hospitalized, and even fewer – 0.03 percent of cases or less – have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A small percentage can also develop a rare but potentially serious inflammatory disease.
The emergence of the delta variant is an urgent reason to continue a large number of mitigation measures, especially in primary schools, said Dr. Linas, who has an 11 year old daughter who has not yet been vaccinated.
What other precautions does the agency recommend?
The agency recommends what is known as a “layered” approach, which suggests that schools combine multiple risk reduction strategies to reduce risk. (This was also known as the “Swiss Cheese Model”.)
In addition to masking, distancing, and vaccination, schools could introduce regular screening tests for the virus. Fully vaccinated students and staff do not need to participate in screening programs or quarantine if they have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 unless they have symptoms as per guidelines.
The guidelines also highlight the importance of ventilation and encourage schools to bring more fresh air into the home by opening doors and windows or changing HVAC settings. “I’m pleased that ventilation is specifically mentioned as a stand-alone element,” said Joseph Allen, a healthy building expert at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “We’ve been talking about it for 18 months now.”
Why doesn’t the CDC set specific standards for schools?
At this stage of the pandemic, the agency said a number of overarching rules made no sense. Immunization rates vary tremendously across the country, and communities with low immunization coverage can experience significant outbreaks, especially as Delta spreads.