HONOLULU — The Department of Health has less than two weeks to revise the Department of Education’s school guidance for on-campus learning before the start of a new school year.
“DOH is updating school guidance because circumstances have changed since we last published guidance in May,” said Brooks Baehr, the COVID-19 &Pandemic Response Administrative Assistant of the DOH. “Our guidance evolves as the pandemic evolves.”
Baehr reassures that comprehensive planning has gone into strategies for the safe return of students to full in-person learning on Aug. 3.
According to Baehr, public schools have implemented layered mitigation strategies and have worked with DOH and healthcare providers to offer vaccinations to all staff and eligible students at dozens of on-campus clinics. This vaccination effort is ongoing.
Schools are also implementing four core essential strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19: promoting vaccination for all staff and eligible students, staying home when sick, requiring mask use, and handwashing. And according to Baehr, they are also layering additional mitigation strategies, including ‘ohana bubbles or cohorting, screening testing, improving ventilation, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfection, to maintain healthy operations and environments.
DOH is currently revising school guidance to align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated K-12 guidance which was just released on July 9, and take into account best practices and lessons learned during the 2020-2021 school year.
Meanwhile, there are students who are not eligible to get vaccinated before the new school year begins and Baehr has some advice.
“Those of us who are eligible to be vaccinated can protect those not yet eligible by getting vaccinated,” Baehr said. “Children age 11 and younger are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Those of us who are able to get vaccinated can insulate these children by getting our shots. Every person who gets vaccinated is helping protect children who are not yet eligible.”
There is no set date to when DOH will publish the new guidelines, however, Baeher said DOH plans to have the guidelines ready very soon, and the DOH will keep the public posted.
“It is my hope that they are able to learn from the multi-track schools that have since returned to the classroom in early July,” said Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani of District 18, said in a statement. “With COVID-19 numbers on a rise due to the delta variant, I urge DOH and the Department of Education (DOE) to quickly provide guidance to our schools so that the appropriate preparations can be made.”
Stephanie Shinno, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island