GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford County Schools leaders say they're committed to keeping schools open even as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the county.
Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann said schools are actually the safest place for children to be right now.
"Although outbreaks in schools can occur, multiple studies have shown that transmission within the school setting is typically lower than community transmission when prevention strategies are in place in these schools," Vann said at a briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Study finds lower spread in schools that require masks
An October study from Duke University's ABC Science Collaborative found schools with universal masking saw lower levels of transmission than those with mask optional policies. Schools that required masks only saw one confirmed COVID-19 case for every 13 cases in the surrounding community.
State's guide to keeping kids in classrooms
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Cody Kinsley says the state's guidance gives school districts all the tools they need to keep schools open safely.
"The StrongSchools Toolkit is incredibly effective when schools follow those guidelines, including having a masking requirement, at reducing infection and spread and keeping kids in the classroom," Kinsley said.
More kids being hospitalized
Some worry sending children back to school may make the pandemic worse. The United States set a record number for children hospitalized with COVID-19 during the week between Dec. 22 and 28. The country sent an average of 378 kids per day to the hospital.
That figure represented a 66% increase from the week before.
Doctors say children still make up a smaller number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. In the same time frame, only 3% of hospitalizations came from people younger than 17.
Latest on vaccines and boosters for kids
Vann said schools may get some help in their fight against the pandemic soon. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control is expected to authorize Pfizer's booster shot for children 12-15 sometime soon.
Children younger than five still cannot receive a COVID-19 shot. Dr. Suresh Nagappan, the Medical Director of the children's unit at Moses Cone Hospital, said the best way to keep those kids safe is to create a "cocoon."
"For those young kids that can't get a vaccine yet, there's something we call cocooning, making sure everyone around them is protected," Nagappan said. "If everyone around that young child is vaccinated, everyone around them is wearing a mask, that's going to go a long way in protecting them."
Guilford County Schools asking for help
GCS leaders said they need your help keeping schools open. They continued stressing the importance of getting everyone eligible vaccinated. They said that will help keep communities and schools safe.