Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 45th edition of the Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, town data, and information on mask-wearing and vaccinations.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Gallagher Middle School and McCabe Elementary School each had one new case while our other schools reported no new cases this week. This brings our total number of cases to 358 since the start of the school year.
On Thursday, May 27th, the RIDOH team met virtually with school and district leaders to answer questions regarding mask-wearing, protocols, end-of-year events, and vaccinations. While they indicated that all should “stay tuned,” right now, no changes have been made to the mask wearing mandates for schools. Unless students are outside and can maintain 3’ social distancing, masks must be worn.
The mandate follows scientifically-based evidence showing that masks have made a difference. In a study of mask use and ventilation improvements to reduce COVID-19 incidence in Georgia elementary schools (Gettings et al, December, 2020), researchers found that COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks and 39% lower in schools that improved ventilation.
As the weather warms, there is a natural fear that mask wearing will result in discomfort. Teachers are encouraged to take the learning outside and employ either mask breaks or distanced seating to allow for masks to be taken off. It is also recommended that an extra mask be brought to school so that the mask can be changed during the day. If and when the guidance changes, we will change our practices accordingly.
Vaccinations Safety for Children 12 and Older
Just today I received an email from my physicians’ office (Reliant Medical Group) that provided the following information: After rigorous study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 years of age and older. Reliant Medical Group and the American Academy of Pediatrics are supportive of eligible children receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. All of the COVID-19 vaccines available have undergone extensive study to ensure their safety. Data from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials showed 100% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease in children 12 and up and the vaccine was found to generate an immune response against the COVID-19 virus that is as good or better than that seen in those 16-25.
Ongoing studies will continue to follow vaccinated children closely and also determine if children younger than 12 can safely receive the vaccine. Although Reliant Medical Group is not currently administering the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. It’s simply the best way to ensure your family is protected against COVID-19.
Families should seek guidance from their children’s pediatrician to make their own informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccine.
New COVID cases in Smithfield dropped to 32 three weeks ago then dropped again to 24 a week later then to 11 for the week of May 16-22. This corresponds to a daily rate of 1.6 new cases per 21,650 residents, or 7.25 per 100,000. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent