MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas — Some students will return to school in less than two weeks, but children 11 and under still can't get the vaccine. School districts are unable to create mandates, so it's up to parents to make sure their kids are prepared.
Waco-McLennan County Public Health District Lead Epidemiologist Vaidehi Shah shares the best back-to-school game plan with these four things you can do to protect your children:
1. Hand sanitizer and hand washing
Children are going to touch things and be around other children. That's hard to avoid but you can tell your children to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after each class.
If that's too much, make sure they thoroughly wash hands any time they use the bathroom, before they eat, after they eat, and after they come in from the playground.
2. Tell you kids to not touch their eyes or mouth with their hands
You can't wash hands every five minutes, but you can tell your children not to rub their eyes or mouth with their hands. Starting that habit right now will make them more prepared for returning to school. Using a sleeve, or perhaps a tissue if your eye itches is far better that using your hand and it's easy to send that in their backpack.
3. Wear a mask
Wearing a face covering is typically more important to prevent a person from spreading COVID-19 than catching it, but when kids are in close proximity, having a mask over the mouth will help prevent catching the virus as well. It also keep them from touching their mouth.
4. Try to stay off the playground
This may be a controversial solution. On one hand, trying to convince a child to read a book, or play on a phone, instead of going down the same slide as 50 other kids can limit their exposure to the virus. On the other hand, interacting and playing with other kids is important to a child's development and learning process. It's up to the parent how far they want to go given the current spike in cases.
Two more steps to help protect your community
1. Get vaccinated at home
Shah said one of the best way to reduce the spread of the virus at school is to reduce the spread of the virus at home by getting everyone who is eligible for the shot vaccinated.
"The first thing I would tell parents is for themselves to get vaccinated," Shah said. "Your family and friends, if they have not been vaccinated, promote vaccination."
2. If kids are sick, they need to stay home
Shah said any kids who are running a fever, have nausea, or have been throwing up need need to stay home. Even if kids aren't showing those symptoms, Shah said parents will know their kids best, and they need to make the call to keep them home if there is a possibility they are infected.