‘By Christmas, we will have shots ready to get into the arms of kids’: But how are Madison districts keeping students under 12 safe until then?

'by Christmas, We Will Have Shots Ready To Get Into The Arms Of Kids': But How Are Madison Districts Keeping Students Under 12 Safe Until Then?

MADISON, Wis. — Just as districts consult with parents and teachers about schedules and curriculum, some of the most important conversations this school year are happening between administrators and doctors. In addition to school boards, many districts have medical advisory boards, filled with local doctors.

“They’re involved in creating policies that will get kids back in school and keep schools safe,” said Dr. William Hartman, UW Health.

Keeping kids healthy and in the classroom are administrators’ top two priorities, and challenges, this school year, especially as long as kids under the age of 12 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. While many still can’t get vaccinated, they can and are getting COVID. Right now, cases among children are surging: from 38,000 at the end of July to more than 180,000 the week of August 16th. More than 1,500 were in Wisconsin.

“The majority of our hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated,” explained Kyle Nondorf, President of SSM St. Mary’s Hospital.

Although kids are less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, they can still suffer long-hauler side-effects themselves, or spread the virus to others.

“This is not forever, we’ll come off this surge,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health.

But, until then, the main recommendation from doctors to districts this school year really is simple: Wear a mask.

“When a child who is masked is exposed to another child who has COVID but is wearing a mask, that child will not have to quarantine, as long as they’re asymptomatic,” explained Dr. Ellen Ward, UW Health.

Doctors say masks will keep students healthy and in the classroom until they become eligible for a vaccine, which they anticipate will happen by the end of the calendar year.

“I would say by Christmas, we will definitely have shots ready to get into the arms of kids,” said Hartman, who oversees clinical trials at the UW Hospital.