LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis issues COVID-19 health guidance for schools

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 9:09 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With back-to-school underway and Delta variant cases on the rise, student safety is top of mind for local health officials.

“We will be encouraging that everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated be vaccinated,” said Dr. Nick HySmith, medical director of infection prevention at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

HySmith is one of seven members of the back-to-school task force. The group is gathering for the second year to provide recommendations for local school districts on how to operate amid the pandemic.

Many of those recommendations mirrorthe recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“We do put a caveat in there that we will look at transmission rates, because we know that it’s difficult for a lot of outlined municipalities to enforce some of the mask wearing recommendations,” HySmith said.

The largest school district in the Mid-South, Shelby County Schools, is requiring students and staff to wear masks. All other Shelby County municipal schools and DeSoto County Schools are making masks optional.

“It just makes me concerned because I feel like we don’t know a lot about the Delta variant in kids right now, and I feel like making it mandatory for all would be the safer way to go, at least for the next few months,” said HySmith. “As far as the limitation on sports this year, we’re going to be a little more laxed on those.”

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association released updated guidelines for high school sports teams Tuesday, which recommends schools follow CDC guidelines, including quarantine for all sports.

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