With August just around the corner, COVID-19 cases surging and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again recommending indoor masking for many vaccinated people, parents and health officials are gearing up for tough choices around school reopening.
My colleague Tara Law has a new story on an issue that may foreshadow what’s to come for schools: COVID-19 outbreaks at summer camps.
Tara focused on a camp in Galveston County, Texas, which has been linked to 157 COVID-19 cases. The camp, which was for kids in grades six through 12, reportedly did little to enforce social distancing and few campers wore masks—even though pediatric vaccination rates in the area are low. The outbreak was likely the result of “a partially vaccinated group of people all getting together and everyone acting…like they were all vaccinated,” one expert told Tara.
That statement has big implications for schools trying to reopen this coming fall. With vaccines still not authorized for children younger than 12, and less than half of 12- to 17-year-olds nationwide fully vaccinated, there will be millions of unprotected children returning to school soon.
With the Delta variant spreading, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics say all students and staff should wear masks in school. (The CDC initially said in guidance published July 9 that vaccinated people could go without masks, but the agency reversed that decision yesterday.) But, as camp outbreaks show, it can be difficult to enforce those policies to the letter, particularly in states—like Texas—where elected officials have barred public schools from requiring any students to wear masks.
“Because actually following rules is an important piece of prevention, schools have the advantage of being more controlled environments than camps,” Tara says. We’ll see this fall how well they do.