ROANOKE, Va. – As coronavirus cases rise across the Commonwealth, many parents are now wondering how to keep their children safe.
Some local school divisions are seeing cases among their students before classes even start. With just weeks or even days until the first day of school, the health of children and the unvaccinated are at top of mind.
“At this point, because children under the age of 12 cannot get vaccinated we should be masking,” Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow said.
Divisions like Rockbridge and Alleghany County are already seeing cases and exposure from athletics before the school year even starts.
Health leaders are working closely with superintendents, but their stance is clear.
[LIST: Which schools are requiring masks and which are not across Southwest, Central Virginia]
“On the CDC, guidance is for a strongly recommends universal masking in school setting and again, as a public health professional, I think it’s really important that all of us — parents, teachers and administrators — do what we can do to protect our children,” Morrow said.
Most recently Montgomery County Schools announced masks would be required for everyone this year.
“We know that there’s a lot of parents who were very concerned and do not like the idea of their children in masks and that it’s been difficult for students with masks we agree,” Montgomery County School Board Member Sue Kass said.
Kass says the board will reevaluate their decision if cases decline over the next several weeks, but for now, they are playing it safe.
“A lot of kids are used to wearing masks they did it last year, and now it’s not fun for any of us but we do want to air on the side of caution,” Kass said.
Local health leaders hope to see vaccine approval for all children later this year, but until then encourage everyone who can get the shot to do their part.
“You know because there’s an entire population of people 11 years old and younger who aren’t even eligible for the vaccine yet, so they don’t, they don’t have the choice to have that protection,” University of Virginia Pharmacist Justin Vesser said.
For a full list of which schools will or will not be requiring a mask in schools this year, click here.