Teachers and School Staff Combat COVID-19, Protect Students
Pfizer this week announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is effective for children ages 5 to 11. While this is great news in a time where nearly one in four hospitalized coronavirus patients is under 18, it could still be some time before we see vaccines distributed to younger children. How are teachers and education administrators keeping our children safe during this difficult period?
Pooled COVID-19 Testing
Teachers are working hard to ensure students’ safety. Over half of Maine schools participate in pooled testing, where students and staff are regularly tested for COVID-19. Teachers and administrators teach younger children how to swab their noses and put their samples in vials, which are then sent to a Massachusetts lab for PCR testing. If the lab finds a positive test in a school’s batch of tests, individual students are then tested.
Students who test positive and those with whom they have close contact will have to quarantine for 10 days. This testing method is designed to lower the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks by catching them early, as well as reduce the number of close contacts who need to quarantine.
The State of Maine has maintained a database with the vaccination status of teachers and school staff. As of the end of August, three-quarters of all educators and school staff are fully vaccinated. That said, the rate of vaccination varies widely by school. Just 30 schools boast 100 percent vaccination rates. Many schools have failed to report their vaccination status at all, which still leaves a lot of unknowns.
Universal Masking and Building Upgrades
In accordance with both the federal and state CDC, students, teachers, and staff are asked to wear masks at all times while indoors. Meanwhile, Governor Mills put aside $300 million last summer to upgrade school ventilation systems and expand outdoor spaces, leaving fewer avenues of transmission.
It goes without saying that teachers are deserving of our utmost respect for the work they do. They are often overworked and underpaid, and a shortage of educators exacerbated by the pandemic makes the burden on our teachers that much greater.
The best thing we can do to recognize and protect educators during this time is to protect ourselves and our families. This means continuing to wear masks per CDC guidelines and getting vaccinated if we’re eligible. This will also help us to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to children, which has become more prevalent with the Delta variant. It’s on all of us to keep our students, our educators, and our communities safe.