Q. What do I do if my child's classmates and teacher won't wear a mask? What if my child gets Covid?
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
A. I'm getting these types of questions over and over. It's the hardest question to answer because there isn't a clear solution when people in charge are ignoring or oblivious to a harmful virus being allowed full reign in classrooms. Public health strongly encourages wearing a mask in indoor public places, but stops short of mandates, possibly to avoid a backlash from the loudest protesters, some with a menacing presence. We have to be louder.
Here are a few suggestions that might work for some parents and in some schools. I understand the privilege some of these measures require, so if you've got it, use it to help the rest of the class! It's frustrating and discouraging that I don't have a better answer, and I'm sorry for that.
Make sure your child is in a tight-fitting N95 or better, and, if possible, meet them for lunch outdoors if they need to be signed out to leave the building. Alternatively, get a rotation of parents to meet with a group of children outdoors for lunch. Masks do work to reduce transmission and viral load, although one-way masking is significantly inferior to two-way masking. Keep vaccinations up-to-date. You could also consider trying Enovid, a nasal spray that makes the nose less hospitable to any virus. ETA: You can also purchase a small, portable, battery-powered air purifier that your child can keep on their desk (read about one mom's experience with it here).
Talk to the teacher. Show them the most current numbers of hospitalizations. We've had more deaths in our region, and in all of Ontario, in the past 8 months than in all of last year. Covid is far worse now. Many people have been led to believe that it's over, but we've plateaued at a very high level, higher than most peaks, and we're about to start wave 8. Remind them that 1/3 of cases are asymptomatic, and that, unlike a typical cold, Covid gets into the bloodstream, so it can affect the entire body.
Then, if the they're receptive, give their teachers the tools to help reduce transmission: Ask if they'll model good mask-wearing, and if they'll let the kids know why they're wearing a mask. Ask if you can bring in a Corsi-Rosenthal box for the classroom to help filter the air. Ask if you can donate a CO2 monitor, and have them open the windows a bit when it hits over 700ppm. And/or see if they're willing to take them outside for lunch. Let them know that Public Health Ontario says, "To prevent community transmission of all infectious diseases, all individuals with new symptom(s) of any infectious illness should stay home when they are feeling sick." The Ontario Screener still says to stay home, even though many schools have stopped using it. Any of these measures will help. More of them will help more. ETA: the school screener was just updated to add this:
If that path goes nowhere, talk to other parents. Give them the same information, and call the principal, en masse, to demand better safety precautions for their children. If that goes nowhere, the next step is trustees, superintendents, and the director. And the media. In my old school, one parent shouting at admin was enough for a VP to come immediately to my room to ask me to close my windows, with CO2 over 2000 ppm after lunch. If enough parents demand a safer classroom, then we might get somewhere. ETA: Here's a presentation I made to the school board last February, if it helps. If it won't play, you might have to download it first.
Some parents have told me they've tried all that and were met with claims of harassment from administrators. Their only recourse was to remove their children from the public school system. I'm worried that this is what Ford is hoping will happen in his quest for privatization, but don't let that stop you if your child's well-being is at stake. That's a fight for another day.
If that fails, and your child brings it home, here's what I did when my oldest got it, from one parent to another, but ask your doctor for what's best for your own child.
Isolate them in a room, and have them use a separate bathroom if possible, or else have them mask when they need to leave their room. Run the bathroom fan for 30 minutes with the window open and door closed after any shower. Run a Corsi-Rosenthal box in the hallway outside their room. Keep windows open as much as possible. It is possible for the rest of the family to avoid it, but it will be a difficult two weeks. See an optimal ventilation/filtration layout here.
One study found that nasal irrigation early on can reduce the viral load.
Get them to rest, body and mind - that means watching mindless TV, not playing video games. Once they start to feel better, get them to rest a few more days! (I know how hard that is!)
Advil or Tylenol will help with most symptoms. Track any fever.
Consider getting a pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels at home, and track that as well.
Stay in touch with your doctor, and seek emergency attention if there's any of these: trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, confusion or inability to wake up fully, any gray/blue skin, lips or nailbeds, any cold pale/blotchy skin, very bad stomach pain, a very high fever (over 39), OR low oxygen levels (under 95).
Don't bother testing with a rapid test until day 6 of exposure. There's a 50% false negative rate before that. Then, once symptoms improve, wait for two negative tests, 24-hours apart, before they're clear.
All the best out there. We'll turn this corner, and hopefully before it's too late for our children.