As COVID-19 cases increase in Texas, not all parents will be informed if there is a coronavirus outbreak in their children’s public schools.
Notifications will only be required if a district learns that a child was a “close contact” of someone with the virus. Those parents can then “choose” to keep their child at home, depending on new guidelines issued earlier this week by the Texas Education Agency.
Vaccinated people are not considered a close contact to report, according to the guidelines, even though vaccinated people can contract and spread the disease.
The TEA also cautions: “School systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.”
Additionally, schools will no longer be required to conduct contact tracing of a COVID-19 outbreak to determine the source of the virus and how it is spreading in the school community. The trace was removed because data from last school year revealed “very low rates of transmission of COVID-19 in a classroom and data demonstrating lower transmission rates among children than among adults, “said the TEA.
But health experts warn that the dangerously most contagious delta variant of COVID-19, which is currently the dominant strain in Texas, is having a much greater impact on children.
“We are dealing with a variant that is more contagious, which is potentially more dangerous for children based on the number of children admitted to the hospital, ”Dr. Seth D. Kaplan, president of the Texas Pediatric Society, told the Texas Tribune.
“Our concern at this time is that we are being given guidelines based on past conditions, but we are not adjusting to current conditions,” he warned. “We no longer have universal masking and we have a much more contagious variant of the virus.”
The delta variant is not only a threat to children, but also to their parents, who may end up fighting for their lives in an intensive care unit after contracting COVID-19 from their children, Kaplan said. “The numbers have started to explode” from the COVID-19 outbreaks in summer camps, he added.
The president of the Texas State Teachers Association, Ovidia Molina, criticized the new guidelines as “woefully” inadequate to “help districts keep campuses, students and employees safe.”
School districts have yet to report positive COVID-19 cases to their local health departments and the state, but it is unclear if those reports will be linked to schools in public records that parents can access.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order banning mask and vaccine mandates in the state, a restriction outlined in TEA guidelines.
“In the future, in Texas, there will be no government-imposed closures or masking mandates,” Abbott said Wednesday. “Everyone already knows what to do”, Apparently even if they are not provided with meaningful information about the COVID outbreaks that threaten their children.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 13,500 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 8,130 hospitalizations reported – the higher number of hospitalizations since mid-February. The seven-day moving average for hospitalizations increased approximately 50% statewideauthorities said Wednesday.
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