PHOENIX - Across Arizona and much of the nation, students and staff are heading back to the classroom following winter break, but health leaders are worried that it's only going to lead to much more COVID-19 cases.
Cases have been on the rise in Arizona and with the highly contagious omicron variant being blamed for the spike, doctors are asking students to take extra precautions as they return to school.
The fear is that many families traveled or went out over the holidays and may just now be starting to experience possible symptoms if they were exposed to the coronavirus.
Vaccines are widely available, but many students still aren't getting their doses or wearing masks.
Arizona does not have a universal mask mandate for schools, but some districts are taking their own actions to keep their students and staff safe, such as the Kyrene School District, which is requiring masks, and Mesa Public Schools, which says it will follow CDC guidelines when it comes to quarantining.
"Children really need to be in school, but we also really need to ensure safe learning environments and I can't see any other way of ensuring that other than to require masks and to even begin requiring vaccinations as well," said Dr. Shad Marvasti, UArizona associate professor and director of public health and prevention.
Most K-8 schools will re-open on Jan. 3. Universities will start back up later this month.
It's always a good idea to check with your school district directly as safety precautions and mask requirements continue to change by the day.
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Monitor your health daily
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