Masks in Sheffield schools? Health boss issues update as Covid cases rise
Sheffield’s public health chief has issued updated Covid guidance for schools, and warned the lead up to the Christmas holidays will be ‘difficult’ for everybody.
The city’s director of public health, Greg Fell, has told parents and children to prepare for some disappointment as rising cases of Covid in schools look likely to mean this half-term leading up to Christmas will not be ‘normal’.
In a letter sent out to parents and guardians, Mr Fell said: “Like the rest of the country Sheffield is now seeing higher case rates in school age pupils and this is to be expected. We want to ensure that we continue to manage transmission of the virus as much as possible and reduce the number of cases.
"This means that unfortunately some things are not completely back to ‘normal’ and I realise that many of you will be disappointed as we approach Christmas that schools may not always be able to put in place some of the things that you are familiar with happening around this time of year.
“We all want as many of our children and young people as possible to experience having a ‘normal’ and positive school experience. Schools are working extremely hard and doing all they can to maintain face to face teaching and learning in a safe way.”
The Covid infection rate in Sheffield currently stands at 391 cases per 100,000 of the population, based on the data for the week to October 17 – the latest reliable figures on record.
The week before, in the seven days to October 10, the infection rate was 368 per 100,000.
This time last year, as the country was heading into the second lockdown, the infection rate in Sheffield was 350 per 100,000. However, the vaccination rollout has meant significantly fewer people are getting hospitalised with Covid than they were before the rollout began.
And in September, the vaccine started to be offered in schools in the city, with children aged between 12 and 15 being given the opportunity to get one dose of the jab.
Now, schools in Sheffield have been issued with 13 guidance points on how children and staff should behave in order to limit the spread of the virus. These are:
If someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19 please ensure that ALL household members have a PCR test (whether they have symptoms or not). You can access a PCR test via: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. Young people living in the household who are of secondary school age should now also take daily LFDs until the PCR result is returned.
Continue within your household to regularly use LFD tests twice-weekly at home.
If anyone in your household is symptomatic (has a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste) and if a child is unwell they should have a PCR test and if your child is unwell, they should not go into school.
Face coverings in communal areas of school or in enclosed indoor spaces including on public transport (unless exempt) are encouraged and teachers should support this.
Everyone in a household should frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.
Schools may have to reduce mixing between year groups and classes if there are increasing cases of COVID-19 in the setting.
Schools should ensure that classroom windows are open to facilitate good ventilation. Some settings will be using CO2 monitors to monitor air quality.
Reduce the numbers of events and meetings involving large numbers of pupils, parents/carers and staff. This means that parents evenings may run virtually and as Christmas approaches schools will be carefully considering if events can go ahead.
Carefully consider whether educational trips and residential visits should go ahead.
Mr Fell said there are considerable benefits of the vaccination programme for children and young people aged 12 – 15 years. Vaccinations are being offered to pupils at school and are encouraged.
Children who missed the vaccination at school are advised book an appointment at the Sheffield vaccination centre on Longle Lane by calling 119. Walk in centres are also offering vaccinations to 12-15 year olds to get their jab, and parents should check the ‘Grab-a-Jab’ website to find their nearest centre, which is updated each day as new sites open up.
Mr Fell said: “Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you and your family can do to help us stop the virus”. If you haven’t yet had your COVID -19 vaccination, please have it as soon as possible. It is also extremely important that anyone eligible for a booster vaccination gets this as soon as possible.”
It is also advised that children, teachers and parents get the flu jab. The flu vaccination is important because more people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you get flu and COVID at the same time, research shows you are more likely to be seriously ill.
Mr Fell added: “The next few weeks as we approach Christmas, and the coming winter period will to be difficult for us all. The steps outlined above will help considerably and I hope you understand their importance. Thank you for your patience and support. COVID-19 continues to influence the things we do and how we live our lives.
"By following the above 13 points this will help the children and young people living in the city to continue to have education in school and for us all to have as safe an autumn and winter as possible.”