The pandemic isn’t over as new school year approaches

New school year comes with new variants of coronavirus, unseasonal RSV

Close up of a pediatrician having a check up on his patient

While kids prepare for another year in the classroom and shop for school supplies, it’s another year through the lens of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Physician leaders at Sanford Health say there has never been a better time to get back to the clinic to make sure kids are on track for a healthy school year.

Sanford Health News hosted a Facebook Live Q&A July 14 with Sanford Health Sioux Falls Clinic Vice President Joshua Crabtree, M.D., to address these topics.

Get your child in for well visit, sports physical

“A lot of those kids didn’t get well child visits last year. There was a concern about, ‘was it safe to come in?’ Certainly, there was hesitancy to bring my child to a clinic where there could potentially be exposure.”

Dr. Crabtree spent many years in the clinic as a family medicine physician.

What to expect: Well child visits important for kids of all ages

“We want them to get in. We need to talk about their personal health, any new issues over the last couple years and any preparatory things for school or sports. Maybe we haven’t been on a certain training program because we haven’t been part of our sport,” he said. “There’s a good education opportunity there.”

It’s a regular check-up for a child under the age of 18. These visits help ensure that infants, children and teens are getting the proper care they need to stay healthy. They give the provider, parents and child an opportunity to talk about nutrition, safety, immunizations and many important age-appropriate topics.

It’s not all physical health

Dr. Crabtree said this year, particularly, is a good opportunity to visit about mental health.

“The last year has been a challenge for parents and children alike from a mental health perspective. The isolation that we’ve experienced from one another — with activities not happening, with churches not necessarily opened in their usual capacity, with school adjustments — there’s definitely been an impact.

“I think the opportunity for clinicians to visit with their patients, young and old, about that impact is significant,” Dr. Crabtree added. “We certainly can take these opportunities at a well visit to connect them with the right resources that they might need.”

Staying current on vaccines

Nowadays, kids over the age of 12, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), can get their COVID-19 vaccine during their visit, in addition to other timely immunizations and a flu shot.

“We’re finding that that’s safe to do, so we can continue to recommend and allow that to happen.”

Dr. Crabtree could not say whether or not school districts will require kids get the COVID-19 vaccine or wear masks in classrooms this year. Sanford Health leaders are leaning into CDC guidance and decisions by individual school districts as the new school year approaches.

“I’m sure they’re going to strongly encourage it just as I’m strongly encouraging everyone to get that vaccine today,” he said. “What we have found and what we know is that not only is COVID vaccine a great way to prevent infection, it’s also a great way to keep our kids and ourselves active and involved in the activities that they want to be involved in.”

Students and athletes have the advantage of avoiding a 14-day quarantine from a known exposure, this year, if they’ve been vaccinated.

“There’s a real benefit to having the vaccine and keeping kids involved so they don’t have to sit out.”

The return of flu season

It’s fair to say when you put people back into close contact with each other, common viral illnesses will return.

“We’ve learned wearing masks work, washing our hands works, being cognizant of our proximity to others and covering our mouth when we sneeze or cough,” Dr. Crabtree said. “All these things have helped decrease that risk of spreading illness this past year.”

Though atypical, he said there have been more cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) reported this summer, which coincided with the loosening of certain mandates like masking and physical distancing.

Find a flu shot: Flu shots at Sanford Health

There’s no telling how the next flu outbreak will compare to recent seasons. But spending more time with others will lead to an increase in the volumes of influenza and other common childhood viral illnesses.

Learn more

Posted In Back to School, Children's, Coronavirus, Family Medicine, Flu, Immunizations