Mississippi pediatricians urge school mask policies, vaccinations amid alarming rise in COVID-19 infections

Published 2:04 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

CLINTON, Miss. – As COVID-19 cases surge to record numbers in the state, pediatrician members of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MSAAP) are reiterating their strong recommendation that schools and child care facilities implement school-wide mask policies for staff and students older than 2 years of age, in alignment with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help keep children and staff in school. Pediatricians also recommend all eligible staff and children receive COVID-19 vaccines, which reduce infections, hospitalizations, and death from the virus. Currently, children age 5 and above are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, with minimal exceptions.

“We know schools have been doing a remarkable job at controlling the spread of COVID-19 while keeping kids in school where they belong. As students come back during the Omicron surge, we need to see the successful strategies that worked last year reinstated, as some schools relaxed these policies in the fall. Measures like school-wide mask requirements and encouraging vaccination will help keep kids in the classroom, where they can learn, play, and grow.” said Dr. Anita Henderson, MD, FAAP, President of the MSAAP.

Cases are rising quickly, with over 17,500 cases reported statewide on January 3 from the 4-day weekend. Test positivity rates over 25% in Mississippi indicate high community spread. Nationally, hospital admissions due to COVID-19 are rising for children. [i] Currently, 5% of Mississippi’s children ages 5-11 and 35% of youth ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated, but too many remain unprotected. [ii] Given these concerns, school-wide mask policies and vaccinations will help keep children, educators, families, and communities safe as children return to school after the break.

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School leaders have clear authority from the Mississippi Department of Education to implement school-wide mask policies. Even vaccinated students and staff should wear masks during the surge given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Well-fitting masks and vaccinations are key components of a layered approach to safety that also includes efforts such as improved ventilation and social distancing.[iii] As always, families should call their child’s doctor with questions or concerns about symptoms or COVID-19 vaccinations.

About the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is the statewide membership organization for pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists. More than 325 members strong, The MSAAP has an 85+ year history of working in a public/private partnership with state government, state-wide and local nonprofit organizations, and foundations to meet the educational needs of pediatric professionals and the public as well as to accomplish public health goals. With our experienced staff, an established organizational infrastructure, and our expertise in medical education, the MSAAP strives to improve the health and well-being of Mississippi’s children and their families.