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Health experts, state leaders emphasize COVID-19 safety as students return to school – NBC Connecticut | #schoolsaftey

Connecticut kids will be back in the classroom in a matter of days, and there are questions on the minds of many parents regarding what COVID-19 protocols will look like this year and if any special precautions are needed.

The days of mask mandates and executive orders are over. Like last school year, each school district will set its own protocols by evaluating its individual COVID-19 situation, according to the state Department of Public Health.

State leaders and health experts say there are also steps that schools and families can take to curb the spread of the virus in classrooms.

One Hartford family enjoyed a picnic in Elizabeth Park Monday evening to wrap up the final days of summer break. When third-grader Eric Galdamez heads back to school, his family said they feel more secure than in years past when it comes to the threat of COVID-19.

“She’s excited that they’re going back to school, but she also wants them to be safe about the COVID,” Heizel Galdamez, Galdamez’s sister, said.

Norma Orellana, of Hartford, also sends her son and her many nieces and nephews back to their Hartford classrooms with a message.

“Keep yourselves clean, and wash your hands,” she said in Spanish.

The mom is also in favor of a renewed COVID-19 booster shot if it will help keep the kids in her family safe.

“It’s important. If it’s something for them to be safe, then yes,” Orellana said.

To boost or not to boost right now is a personal decision for parents, according to Hartford HealthCare’s chief epidemiologist Dr. Ulysses Wu.

“This may be the best time to get your protection,” Wu said. “But we certainly expect a robust respiratory virus season, probably late October through at least February, with not just COVID but influenza, RSV. The timing will be dependent on really your personal situation.”

State leaders are also reiterating the importance of immunizations to protect students from preventable diseases.

In a letter sent to school administrators from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Education, they emphasize the need for the flu vaccine for both students and staff and encourage school districts to follow CDC guidance regarding quarantine, isolation and masking for COVID-19.

With new COVID-19 variants circling, Wu encourages hand-washing and social distancing or masking around people with symptoms such as coughing.

“I do expect an uptick. I’m just hoping that it’s not like previous years,” he said.

When it comes to going back to school, he said there is one critical step to stop the spread.

“If your kid is sick, it’s probably best to keep them out of school,” Wu said.

NBC Connecticut reached out to several school districts for comment on their COVID-19 protocols as students return to classrooms.

A spokesperson for Hartford Public Schools said the district will be emphasizing vaccinations, proper hygiene and isolation after testing positive. They strongly recommend that students and staff monitor for symptoms and act accordingly.

Harford Public Schools will provide updates on protocols and offer full guidance before the school year starts.

West Hartford Public Schools is also encouraging safe practices. In a statement, Andrew Morrow, assistant superintendent for administration said:

“WHPS will continue to follow guidance from, and will work closely with, the West Hartford/Bloomfield Health Board to implement thoughtful and familiar strategies, such as regular handwashing and good hygiene to address Covid as well as other infectious respiratory diseases. Throughout the year, WHPS will closely monitor any outbreak of respiratory illness and respond appropriately with flexible prevention strategies as conditions change.”

This year, school districts are not required to submit reports of individual COVID-19 cases to the state, but in the letter, state leaders say they should continue to report suspected outbreaks.

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