Q: I am worried about my grandkids starting school again with the COVID numbers going up and the Delta variant spreading. I am worried for their safety and for mine. What can I do to help feel calmer and stay safe?
A: I think many of us thought this school year would feel safer and more “normal” than last year. The Delta variant has changed that for everyone, as we see the increased COVID numbers again. It is very disheartening, and the emotional back and forth is weighing on all of us.
While the schools will look different this year than last, they are still taking many precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID. The California Department of Education has guidance for K – 12 schools to mitigate the spread. This includes universal masking required indoors in schools. Teachers and all school employees are required to be fully vaccinated or have weekly COVID testing.
Most school districts have web pages devoted to explaining the school safety measures. I recommend you view the webpage, talk to your family members, and make sure all your questions are answered so that you have a clear picture of what is being done to ensure your grandchildren’s safety. California Safe Schools for All provides a parent web page with information on school opening rules in California. You can view it here https://schools.covid19.ca.gov/pages/parent-page
With any gatherings, including schools, there can be a risk of exposure. The hope is that the exposure is limited due to the mask wearing or time spent outdoors without masks where there is better ventilation. If you are not the primary caregiver, then talk to that person and make sure they let you know if there is notification of any cases or exposure at school. Then you can decide if you need to pause visits with the grandchild until they have been tested or until enough time has passed to ensure they are not able to spread COVID to you.
It is also important to be vaccinated and encourage the other people in your life who are eligible for the vaccine, and age 12, and up to be vaccinated. This is an important way to protect yourself and your family.
Some of the worries about school opening may come from watching the news and learning about what is happening with the spread of the virus in schools in other areas. Try and focus on your community, the California guidelines, and your own school’s practices. Comparing to another location that has different mitigation procedures in place will only add to your worry and not be based on the reality of what is being done locally.
Resuming school or any activities assumes some level of risk. The social and emotional benefits of a full school day is also important, and we can help ease anxiety by also focusing on the benefits. The goal is to reduce the risk based on what the studies about virus transmission indicate. Studies all show that transmission in schools is much lower than transmission in the community, at social gatherings held indoors like birthdays and weddings.
Right now, we are experiencing what feels like a set back with COVID numbers. We were hopeful and feeling relief that COVID was under control and things were going back to normal. The school year returning to full days is a big part of that. Now, seeing the case numbers rise right before school starts puts many of us on edge. Once again, we are experiencing the emotional toll that this pandemic has on us, grappling with difficult safety decisions and the stress of navigating unfamiliar territory.
Check in with your feelings and check in with your family members as they are probably sharing in your worries. Stay involved and aware of the safety procedures and do what makes you feel comfortable. We have learned over the last year that things can change quickly. Therefore, we must focus on what we can control, do our best to be in the moment, take breaks and add in relaxing activities to help us get through whatever comes next.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at email@example.com