August 9, 2021
As summer winds down, I know that we had all hoped to see a return to some normalcy with a fresh start to a new school year in the setting of the waning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the rise of the Delta variant has shaken things up completely, putting our children and families in a potentially very difficult position as COVID-19 cases increase in the pediatric population. We all worry about how we can best keep our children safe at school and in the community. I can assure you that at TPS, we are doing everything that we can to make this happen.
Several weeks ago, TPS wrote directly to the agencies responsible for setting policies on school health, including the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Texas Education Agency, and the Department of State Health Services, to encourage masking in school settings as per AAP and CDC guidance. In addition, TPS, TMA, and the Texas Public Health Coalition released a statewide press statement focused on the importance of both masking in schools and ensuring that every eligible child receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
All throughout, I and many other TPS leaders have conducted TV, radio, and print media interviews to amplify this message. You can find many of these on our website and various social media platforms. In addition, we continue to advocate behind the scenes through contacts with DSHS Commissioner Hellerstedt and the Governor’s Office.
Last week, TPS and TMA leadership and staff had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Bechara Choucair, the White House COVID-19 Vaccinations Coordinator. We discussed many issues, including the roll out of COVID-19 vaccine to pediatric offices in Texas, burdens those pediatric offices can face in providing vaccine, how to overcome vaccine hesitancy in our state, and the rampant misinformation we are having to compete against. We also discussed communication strategies that might be helpful to see from the Federal government related to COVID-19 vaccines. We have open lines of communication for further discussion as necessary.
The TPS Executive Officers, the Executive Legislative Committee, the Committee on Infectious Diseases and Immunizations and staff continue to have robust discussions as to how to effectively advocate for the best conditions for our children to be able to return to school safely. We are actively engaged in each Special Session called by the Governor.
New information and guidance are coming out at a dizzying pace, and we are striving to address new developments in as timely a fashion as possible. We will continue to stress the public health measures that are needed to keep our children safe, including the importance of vaccination for those who are eligible and the importance of universal mask wearing in school and other indoor settings. We are also addressing concerns about the role of schools in contact tracing, since we know that the conditions that schools will be operating in this coming school year do not reflect the many mitigation strategies that were previously in place. We will continue with media outreach and advocacy with legislators and government officials.
We would like to thank everyone who has taken these messages to their local communities, whether it be through presentations to school boards, appearances on local media, or social media outreach to their patients and their families. Together, we strive to do everything that we can to achieve our common goal of keeping our children safe at school.
Seth D. Kaplan, MD, FAAP