Mississippi pediatricians beg school leaders to follow mask guidelines, other measures to protect children as COVID cases soar

Published 5:30 pm Monday, January 3, 2022

A Mississippi pediatrician group urged school leaders to implement school-wide masking policies and other mitigation efforts in the face of rapidly surging numbers of new COVID-19 coronavirus cases.

Pediatrician members of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MSAAP) said Monday they are strongly recommending schools and child care facilities implement school-wide mask policies for staff and students older than 2 years of age to help keep children and staff in school.

MSAAP’s guidance mimicks the guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Pediatricians also recommend all eligible staff and children receive COVID-19 vaccines, which reduce infections, hospitalizations and death from the virus, MSAAP officials wrote in a press release on the matter.

“We know schools have been doing a remarkable job at controlling the spread of COVID-19 while keeping kids in school where they belong,” said Dr. Anita Henderson, MSAAP president. “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.”

Cases are rising quickly, with more than 17,500 cases reported statewide on Monday from the 4-day weekend. Test positivity rates of more than 25 percent in Mississippi indicate high community spread.

Nationally, hospital admissions due to COVID-19 are rising for children.

Currently, only 5 percent of Mississippi’s children ages 5-11 and 35% of youth ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated, MSAAP officials said.

“School leaders have clear authority from the Mississippi Department of Education to implement school-wide mask policies,” MSAAP official wrote in their press release. “Even vaccinated students and staff should wear masks during the surge given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.”