For our second UCLA Health Q&A, we spoke with Dr. Anu Seshadri about the current state of COVID-19 as it relates to school reopening, summer activities, and vaccinations. Dr. Seshadri is an Internal Medicine/Pediatric physician at UCLA Health. She pursued this dual focus to be able to practice true transitional care and be able to provide a more complete “family” care.
Check out the interview below!
(Please note, this interview was conducted at the end of April 2021. For the most up to date information and resources about COVID-19, please visit the UCLA Health COVID-19 information page. If you are interested in learning more about the vaccine, please visit the UCLA Health COVID-19 Vaccine Information Hub)
Matt: As schools across Los Angeles have welcomed students back to campus for hybrid learning models, what are your thoughts? What are some key considerations to keep in mind with schools returning?
Dr. Seshadri: The opportunity to return to school will be extremely beneficial for children’s social development and mental health. During the pandemic and remote learning, children have lacked opportunities to develop their interpersonal skills. The return to the classroom will also help with developing a sense of independence away from parents and family.
Open and honest communication between school officials and parents/families to address concerns and issues as they occur is very important. Any glitches within the system and models need to be addressed and solved in an efficient manner while everyone remains positive and reassured.
What happens OUTSIDE the school is as important, or even more important, than what happens inside the school.
If a child is sick, or feels sick, they should stay home until they are evaluated by a physician
If a family member is sick, the child should take the necessary precautions in order to protect others at the school – whether that be quarantining or making sure they are safe to return
Try to limit unsafe social interaction outside of school to decrease the risk of infection and bringing it into school
The importance of hygienic measures, social distancing, and face masks should be encouraged for children in a positive manner. Being nervous or fearful around children can have damaging effects on them. It is important to first understand how much your child is informed about COVID-19 by actively listening to them and then to calmly reinforce the importance of protective measures in order to keep themselves, their classmates, families, and community members safe.;
Matt: We are more than a year into the pandemic, vaccinations are rolling out on a large scale, and many elements of our lives are starting to return. What is important to keep in mind during this time?
Dr. Seshadri: A vaccine is not a “get out of jail free” card. There is protective and preventative efficacy of vaccinations, but COVID-19 vaccines are mainly for reducing the severity of COVID-19 if infected. With new strains emerging, we should remain vigilant. There is a lot of research underway to better understand these variants, the protection provided by vaccines, and much more. We do not want to back track in any sort of way – we still need to follow social distancing, masking, and hygiene guidelines.
If you have the opportunity to get immunized, you should do so at your earliest convenience. The more people that are vaccinated, the closer we will be to herd immunity, a reduction in hospitalization numbers, and a return to a more normal life.
Matt: Summer is just around the corner – do you have any tips for parents on keeping their kids safely active? How about for expanding social circles/pods?
Dr. Seshadri: For those considering youth sports, the CDC has a great website filled with resources on this topic. Because children under 16 are not being vaccinated, there is still a risk for infections through school events and sports. Try to involve children in outdoor activities as much as possible, which can be socially distant. Masks should be worn when possible too. High intensity activities should be kept outside in well ventilated areas. Frequent hand sanitizing is important and limiting the sharing of equipment should be a focus.
Expanding social circles and pods is very dependent on every individual’s protective and hygiene measures that are implemented outside of meet ups. If all individuals are vaccinated, there is LESS risk of spreading COVID-19, but that does not mean there is no risk. The trust you have in the social circles you choose for yourself and for your child is critical.
Matt: The start of the 2021-2022 school year will be here quickly. How can parents and families begin to prepare?
Dr. Seshadri:The WHO and CDC have comprehensive information regarding safe schooling measures, which everyone with children or working in schools should be familiar with. It is important to keep communication open with school officials so you are aware of what measures your school is taking. As mentioned earlier, it is important to inform your child about the importance of hygienic and social distancing measures while they are at school. If you have any questions or concerns, you should contact your doctor or pediatrician.
Matt: Do you have any thoughts to share with regards to vaccinations for children?
Dr. Seshadri: I hope that vaccinations for children will be implemented later in 2021 or early in 2022. It is reassuring that vaccines have been tested and are being studied in older aged populations, so we know what to expect and what can be potentially delivered to children in a safe manner. Children react differently to vaccines compared to adults and so the doses for children need to be safely tested.
Children usually do not present with severe symptoms when infected with COVID-19, but still act as carriers and transmitters of the disease. There are still rare reports of children being infected and presenting with MIS-C after COVID-19 illness. Our goal is to hopefully have children immunized so that herd immunity can be reached, community risk decreases, and children can fully return to school in a safer manner.