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October 26, 2021

Guest Column | Getting Back to School Safely

After being in distance learning mode most of the last school year, we are excited to have students, teachers and staff back together in our school communities. It’s something we’ve all missed deeply, and we understand how vital in-person teaching and learning is for our children and our educators.

We’ve made much progress in building our defenses against Covid-19, but we are not out of the woods.  As of Sept. 7, 79% of Monterey County residents 12 and older are vaccinated. As community transmission remains high across the country, we must increase our vaccination rates.

So, we are appealing to all of you who have children in our schools or who work in our schools to do everything in your power to ensure we have safe and healthy environments where our children can flourish. The safety and well-being of students, teachers and our staff is a top priority.

First, we strongly recommend Covid-19 vaccinations for everyone 12 and over, and that younger students be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. We expect the Pfizer vaccine to be authorized for children 5 to 11 by the end of this year or early 2022. While not required to attend school, vaccinating both parents and children can protect themselves and help us reach herd immunity by getting vaccinated. Covid-19 vaccines also protect against the mental and physical effects of lockdowns and other restrictions.

Second, following recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has mandated that all students, teachers and staff in California public schools wear masks during all indoor activities regardless of vaccination status. Masking is optional for outdoor activities. We understand that not all individuals support the masking requirement. Still, we believe it is in the best interest of all community members during this Covid-19 surge. If you’re a parent, please help your children prepare for this requirement and encourage acceptance.

Third, California now requires all teachers to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. While nearly 90% of educators statewide are currently vaccinated, the rising spread of more contagious variants makes the mandate necessary. Schools must be in full compliance with this policy by Oct. 15.

There are a variety of reasons some people may be hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine. We want to address some of the main concerns:

  • Covid-19 vaccines are very safe and have been given to millions of people in the United States alone with very few adverse reactions.
  • There is no evidence any vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines, cause male or female fertility problems.
  • The vaccines do not contain the Covid-19 virus, and cannot give you Covid-19.
  • Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines were developed quickly because scientists have been perfecting mRNA vaccines for more than a decade. These vaccines do not change or interact with DNA in any way.
  • The vaccines are effective against the new Delta variant of Covid-19.
  • The Covid-19 vaccine protects against hospitalizations and death. An estimated 99.5% of recent deaths from Covid-19 are among unvaccinated people.
  • Family doctors and pediatricians recommend that anyone 12 years of age and older get the Covid-19 vaccination.

Vaccination is our best shot at stopping the devastation of this pandemic and the best way to protect our children from more dangerous variants. We all have an important role to play in getting our children back to the learning environment they want, need and deserve — and keeping our schools open. Check mcvaccinate.com to find a clinic near you or take make an appointment.

We appreciate your help making our schools and our communities as safe and healthy as possible.

Deneen Guss and Melissa Nothnagle
Deneen Guss is the Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, and Melissa Nothnagle is the Natividad Chief of Family Medicine.

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