Appeal to Friendswood ISD from Physicians
Appeal to Friendswood ISD from Physicians
We, as practicing physicians in Friendswood, Houston and surrounding areas are very concerned about the start of the new school year during very challenging times. We are worried that Friendswood ISD (FISD) has not put forth any covid mitigation plans, when many other districts such as Katy, Spring, Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio are now requiring masking and are putting together virtual schooling options.
We are currently seeing a surge in covid infections unlike ever before in our area. Specifically, Galveston county is currently at above 20% positivity rate, there are no more ICU beds available in our area as well as the entire Texas Medical Center. We have NEVER looked like this in the history of this pandemic; we were in quarantine and then had virtual options as well as masking throughout the last school year when the situation was actually better.
Unlike previous surges, this current surge involves a more contagious delta variant that can infect even vaccinated individuals and requires strict masking and social distancing to control. The old recommendation that vaccinated individuals do not need masking is incorrect and as the CDC has amended, we need everyone to mask in all surge areas. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends universal masking in schools. We do still need to recommend vaccination in those ages 12 and above, as vaccines prevent severe disease.
We are most definitely a surge area. Because of a simultaneous RSV surge, ICUs in all Texas children’s hospitals are full and even floor beds are near capacity. Despite having the biggest medical center in the world, we are currently having to divert both pediatric and adult patients not just out of the Houston area, but, in fact, out of state.
As we all know, unfortunately, the vaccination rate in our area is well below the desired level and children under 12 do not even qualify for vaccination yet. It will take time for them to develop immunity once they do qualify. Without vaccination and without masking, it is not a question of “if” students will contract covid infection once they start school without any mitigation protocols in place, but “when” they will contract it. Many of these students will recover without problems, but some will develop severe symptoms requiring hospitalization and some will develop chronic long haul problems. On the other hand, with mitigation, these negative health consequences are preventable. If we do not act now, not only will infection affect children, but it will spread to parents, grandparents, teachers, staff and the community at large. Our medical infrastructure is already stressed--how are we as doctors, hospitals, healthcare providers expected to keep up? Where will we be sending these patients when our hospitals are already working beyond capacity?
Furthermore, it is incorrect to allow students back in class after being only 24 hours fever free. All infectious disease experts and organizations such as the CDC and WHO still recommend 10 days of isolation in those infected, then return as long as you have been fever free for 24 hrs. All exposed individuals must quarantine as well. Due to these potential periods of isolation and quarantine, it is imperative that you create virtual options for students who will need to quarantine. It may also be a better idea to offer a completely online curriculum to decrease the number of students in classrooms. If schools open at full capacity, there is no real social distancing that can be done.
We cannot open schools without required masking, social distancing, quarantining and contact tracing. If you are worried about monetary loss, this loss will be greater if a significant portion of your workforce falls ill, which it will if you do not implement strong preventive measures. Just encouraging masking is not enough: we strongly encouraged covid vaccines, yet less than 50% of Galveston county listened.
This pandemic is a medical and epidemiological problem; decisions should be based on scientific evidence and not politics or emotions. We owe it to the health of our children, teachers, staff as well as our community, state and all of humanity who is currently dealing with this pandemic.
We beseech you to consider and implement the following:
(a) Schools need to require masking;
(b) There need to be scientifically sound policies on isolation, quarantine and contact tracing—the CDC currently recommends that infected individuals isolate for 10 days AND be fever free for 24 hrs before returning to school whereas exposed individuals need to quarantine 14 days or can return in 7 days with a negative test 5 days after exposure. Severely ill or immunocompromised individuals with infection need to isolate for 20 days.
(c) Virtual options should be available for students during quarantine or isolation;
(d) Social distancing and spacing especially during eating for both students and staff;
(d) Consider a complete optional online virtual curriculum to decrease the overall number of children in classrooms and also provide a safer option for unvaccinated children as well as children with illnesses.
Our recommendations are based on scientific evidence and the most current recommended practices, in order to optimize the health of our students, staff and entire community. We can provide you with more data and evidence if this will help change your mind. A group of us can also meet virtually or in person with your representatives for further discussion.
I really hope you will consider this strongly.
Thank you. Sincerely,
Concerned Physicians, our names are all signed in this petition