COVID-19 surges in kids nationally as local schools return, wrestle with protocols

Children at Cline Elementary School in Centerville load into buses after the first day of school Wednesday August 18, 2021. All of the kids were wearing masks. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
Children at Cline Elementary School in Centerville load into buses after the first day of school Wednesday August 18, 2021. All of the kids were wearing masks. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Only 29% of eligible Montgomery County kids are vaccinated

At least 18 students and 20 school staff members in four Dayton area counties have contracted COVID-19 already this school year, according to Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday.

Nationwide, cases, hospitalizations and deaths in children are ticking up. Thousands of students are already in quarantine, including 20,000 in Mississippi alone. These numbers are coming out of states where school starts a bit earlier than in Ohio and state governments have prohibited schools from requiring face masks.

ExploreRecord delta wave hits kids, raises fear as US schools open

Local health experts say that as Dayton area students, many unvaccinated and bare-faced, head back to the classroom, we can expect to see similarly worrisome trends here in the near future. Meanwhile, area school districts are scrambling to adjust their safety protocols.

Dr. Michael Klatte, the division chief of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s, explained that while serious illness or death from COVID-19 is still rare in children, the danger is still there.

“The risk for children having symptoms and severe symptoms is increased because of the increased infectivity of the Delta variant,” he said. “Larger numbers of children are becoming infected and because of those larger numbers of children being infected, we’re seeing increased numbers of children with severe illness.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Klatte said Dayton Children’s is preparing for a possible surge.

While pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization rates are lower than those for adults, they have surged in recent weeks, reaching 0.41 per 100,000 children ages 0 to 17, compared with 0.31 per 100,000, the previous high set in mid-January, according to an Aug. 13 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 29% of Montgomery County residents age 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. Coronavirus vaccines are currently only authorized for emergency use in Americans 12 years and older. There are about 78,000 Montgomery County residents eleven years and younger.

CountySchool or School DistrictNew Student CasesNew Staff Cases
WarrenCarlisle Local01
GreeneCedar Cliff Local01
MontgomeryCenterville City21
MontgomeryChaminade-Julienne10
MontgomeryDayton City05
MontgomeryDECA PREP10
MontgomeryKettering City School District20
WarrenLebanon City03
WarrenMason City10
MontgomeryMiamisburg City01
MiamiNicholas School00
MontgomeryNorthmont City82
MontgomeryOakwood City00
MiamiPiqua Catholic Elementary00
MiamiPiqua Christian School00
MiamiPiqua City00
MiamiTipp City Exempted Village02
MiamiUpper Valley Career Center00
GreeneXenia Community City33
GreeneYellow Springs Exempted Village01

“We know that children under 12 represent the huge number of individuals who are unvaccinated and therefore are more susceptible to getting this illness,” Klatte said. “I said this even before the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC came out with their recommendation for universal masking in schools: masking really is the safest way to prevent the spread of infection in children who can’t be vaccinated who will be attending school.”

In the last few days, several area school districts have reversed their stance on face masks and moved to require them. Districts now requiring masks include Dayton, Trotwood, Jefferson, Northridge and Fairborn. Centerville, Oakwood, Northmont, Beavercreek and Springboro are requiring masks for elementary students. Other school districts are leaving it up to families to decide.

The move has been met with some resistance. About 15 people protested against the new mask mandate outside the Beavercreek Board of Education office on Wednesday. On Thursday, more than 50 showed up to protest in front of the Springboro Board of Education office.

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Schools are also grappling with new quarantine guidelines and the lack of a virtual option this year for those who do get sent home.

According to the Ohio Department of Health and other public health agencies, schools that are following the same stringent protocols from last academic year, including universal masking and maximizing physical distancing, do not have to send students and staff exposed to a positive coronavirus case in the classroom home to quarantine. But if a student or staff member is not wearing a mask and not vaccinated when they are exposed, they should quarantine.

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On Tuesday and Wednesday, Kettering City School District, which reported two cases to the Ohio Department of Health this week, sent four separate emails to parents of students at Van Buren Middle School about a student testing positive for COVID-19. Each email updated the wording around the district’s quarantine guidelines.

“Obviously, it’s very confusing,” said Katy Kreitzer, the mother of a seventh-grade student at Van Buren Middle School. “And it doesn’t seem like the district is taking nearly the precautions that they were at the beginning of this whole thing, and it feels like COVID with the delta variant is either just as bad or worse than the beginning of last school year.”

On Thursday, Kettering Public updated its guidance for quarantine protocols again to bring them in line with CDC recommendations and provided them to the Dayton Daily News.

Kettering Schools spokeswoman Kari Basson said if an unmasked and unvaccinated student or staff member is within 3 feet for more than 15 minutes of an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff member would be required to quarantine.