UAB doctor urges mandatory masking in school, parent weighs in

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – As many Alabama schools are beginning the new school year, many medical professionals are closely watching the effect COVID-19 is having on children.

One leader with UAB and Children’s of Alabama says quite frankly he’s scared of what’s to come, and he has suggestions for schools across the state to mitigate the risk of virus spread.

UAB and Children’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Co-Director David Kimberlin has a message:

“Get vaccinated if you’re 12 and older, put a mask on when you’re inside, and since schools are inside, everyone should be masked inside,” he said.

This comes as he says more children are testing positive for COVID-19, he thinks, directly correlating with the Delta variant’s infectiousness, accounting for 90% of the COVID-19 cases they’re seeing.

“Widely spreading, vastly, rapidly spreading among children and it’s filling up our hospitals,” Kimberlin said. “Will a lot of children be fine from it? Thank God, yes. Will some children not be? Yes.”

Dr. Gayatri Venkatraman is a family physician who has two children in Madison City Schools, both are too young to be vaccinated.

“I’m very anxious in some ways. Every day I end up talking to some of my physician colleagues who have kids the same age, especially the pediatrician colleagues to say, ‘ok what are they seeing?'” she said.

Although Madison City School System’s original plan was to go mask-optional, as rates spiked and parents voiced their fears, administrators changed their policy for this school year.

“I applaud all of the officials who took our concerns into account and yes, there is a mask mandate, and that makes me as a parent and a physician less anxious to send my kids to school,” Venkatraman said.

Kimberlin says masking protects all and can even help prevent another school shutdown should positivity rates continue to climb.

“This is something that I really beg those school districts that have not yet required mandatory masking, I beg them to listen to the uniformity of voice here,” Kimberlin said.

He highly recommends vaccines for students 12 years and older, an added benefit of that being the CDC does not suggest quarantining in the case of exposure, meaning fewer days of school interrupted for those students.

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