As the Cape Region moves toward normalcy, families need to keep following COVID-19 precautions, health officials said at a Sept. 18 virtual forum for Cape district parents.
Beebe Healthcare infectious disease physician and COVID-19 Medical Director Bill Chasanov said significantly fewer cases in the community and hospital the last several weeks have allowed students to return to school in a hybrid model.
“I’m proud that Cape Henlopen has decided to do that,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a roadmap for school districts to open in-person classes on an alternating cohort schedule, Chasanov said, which ensures students are around the same people every day and decreases the amount of exposure they encounter and take home.
“It’s important to realize, as excited as we all are that things are moving ahead and seem a little bit more like normal, we’re still not out of the woods, and we still need to make sure this fall and winter that we are doing things to keep all of us protected,” Chasanov said.
Everyone may be feeling a little COVID-19 fatigue, Chasanov said, but it is important to keep wearing masks, washing hands frequently and limiting people in gatherings. Do not send sick children to school, Chasanov said; it is difficult to tell what is COVID-19 and what is another respiratory illness.
Chasanov said everyone who is eligible should get the flu vaccine. He said Beebe will have 48 community vaccination events throughout Sussex County; a list of locations is available at beebehealthcare.org/vaccinate-48.
When there is an effective, widely available vaccine, or it is determined that there is enough herd immunity in the country, it will be safe for schools to open as normal without the cohort model, Chasanov said.
Cape High nurse practitioner Joanne Economos said the school-based wellness center has undergone some changes. Cloth furniture has been replaced with easily disinfected plastic furniture spaced six feet apart. The front desk reception area is wrapped in plexiglass, and floors are marked in six-foot distances.
The staff looks different, too, she said. In addition to masks and gloves, staff wear goggles and face shields. Clinicians are scheduling in-person visits and sports physicals; telehealth appointments are still available, she said.
Economos encouraged any student who feels down, isolated or anxious to reach out to a counselor.
“Having someone to talk to during these very difficult times is very important for our students,” she said.
Beebe pediatrics Chair Erin Fletcher dispelled the myth that children don’t get COVID-19.
“Sussex County actually has the highest rate of children under 18 being infected with COVID, which is 91 per 100,000 under the age of 4 and 148.8 per 100,000 ages 5 to 17,” Fletcher said. “It’s definitely impacting kids. We are lucky – in the state of Delaware we have not seen any deaths of any children to this point.”
Fletcher said parents should monitor children daily for symptoms, including cough, fever, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, headache, congestion, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and must not downplay symptoms. Parents should keep sick children home, call their physician and take advantage of community testing events; she recommended children be tested once a month to identify asymptomatic infected children and help contain the spread.
Beebe President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. David Tam said balancing safety while ensuring children have the best opportunities for education and social support is imperative.
For many months, the community generously supported healthcare workers on the front lines, Tam said.
“It kept us going in many ways,” he said. “It’s time for us now to do the same for our teachers and all the people who work at the schools. Please take every opportunity to support our teachers and support our schools that are doing everything possible to make sure our kids get the support they need so they can live the lives they deserve.”