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Wearing mask at school will help keep kids out of hospital

From Dr. Stephanie Stovall is a mother of two girls. She is also a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician and Interim Chief of Quality & Patient Safety for Lee Health.

School has started in our community.

As a mother, I know how excited kids get to go back to school.

And as parents, we want to do everything we can to protect our children.

That’s why I am writing this.

While I’m a mom of twin girls, I’m also a pediatric infectious disease specialist and Lee Health’s interim chief of quality and patient safety.

I’m a physician who has been working very closely in the hospitals with our frontline team members since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. I have seen so many lives lost due to COVID-19, and those numbers are continuing to climb.

Our hospitals are seeing record numbers. Now that school has started, we expect these numbers to continue to grow.

At Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, we are caring for, on average, six to seven times more children with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Before the current outbreak in our community, we were averaging no more than one to two kids with COVID-19 in Golisano per day.

The Delta variant – which is the most dominant right now – is highly contagious, much more so than the original strain. And it is really affecting our children. Children in our community who get COVID-19 are getting sick enough to be hospitalized and put on ventilators.

I applaud the Lee County School District for requiring masks for all students. That was absolutely the right thing to do for the safety of our children. Kids under 12 aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and we need to do everything we can to protect our children.

I am urging any parent who wants to opt out of this requirement or has already done so to please wait and let the surge subside before putting children at further risk. Wearing a mask at school will help keep kids out of the hospital. Masks work. It has been proven that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Anyone over the age of 2 should be wearing a mask when in an indoor setting and around others.

Also, I urge anyone who is able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and hasn’t yet been to do so as soon as possible. Vaccinations save lives. The COVID-19 vaccine is free to you, and is available at several retailers in the area, in addition to our Community Vaccination Clinic at Gulf Coast Medical Center. The clinic is walk-in and open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Please don’t wait.

By getting vaccinated and getting your kids who are 12 and over vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, your children and your community.