what parents need to know – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

It’s that time of year again. As much as we want to hold on to summer in Seattle, with its cool outdoor fun, fall is almost here. Back to school means rain jackets, backpacks and kids spending more time indoors. As we see almost every year, it’s easy for kids to spread germs like the common cold, flu, and COVID-19 because respiratory viruses spread more easily indoors.

As parents, we want our children to be safe and happy at school. We can send our children to school with greater peace of mind, knowing that we are protecting them and others as best we can. This year’s back-to-school COVID-19 prevention guidelines can also help reduce the transmission of other common respiratory viruses, such as the flu.

Worrying about our children contracting COVID-19 while at school is no fun. And unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t going away. That’s why it’s so important to keep wearing masks, make sure your family is up to date on vaccines, and stay home from work and school and away from others for 5 days or more when you or your children feel sick.


Here are a few things to know about this year’s COVID-19 back-to-school requirements and safety guidelines:

Vaccines are mandatory on the first day of the 2022-03 school year

Washington State K-12 students should be up to date on vaccinations required for school on or before the first day. This is whether they will attend classes face-to-face or remotely. Along with pencils and notebooks, vaccines like Tdap, DTap, MMR, hepatitis B, chicken pox, and polio may be on your child’s back-to-school list. There are also COVID-19, HPV and meningococcal vaccines that your child may need to stay healthy and happy.

Free Vaccination Clinics in King County

Health professionals at our King County free vaccination events will be available to answer your questions and provide the necessary immunizations. You do not need insurance or proof of immigration status. Just bring your child, their immunization records if you have them, and a book or toy to occupy them while they wait.

COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect your child from getting long-lasting symptoms or serious illness from COVID

Many children have not completed their first round of COVID-19 vaccines. Some of this is due to vaccine hesitancy, misinformation or other barriers. It may be helpful to know that vaccines for children are safe and well-tested. Trusted health professionals like pediatricians Dr. Ben Danielson and Dr. Helen Stankiewicz Carita of UW Medicine, Dr. Ahmed Ali of the Somali Health Council, and Dr. Iman Younis of Othello Pharmacy agree that vaccinating your children is the most the best way to protect them and the community from serious illness that could cause them to miss school. They answer common questions from parents in a series of videos, like this one from Dr. Ben on why the vaccine is safe for children.

Dr. Ben Danielson explains the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

Make an appointment with your pediatrician, pharmacy, or health care provider

To inform your tweens, tweens, children and toddlers about COVID-19 vaccines, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or health care provider or check our vaccine locations page. Vaccinations against COVID-19 remain everyone’s best defense against hospitalization and severe illness from COVID-19. The vaccine against COVID-19 is now available for children over 6 months. Booster doses are also available for children over 5 years of age.

Schools and kindergartens may require you to wear a mask

Be sure to pack a well-fitting mask in your child’s backpack. And thank you for respecting people’s choice to continue wearing a mask. Wearing a high-quality mask remains an important tool in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

People who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or feeling sick should wear masks to protect themselves and others when in closed public places like school. Preschool and Kindergarten children ages 2-4 are encouraged to wear a mask under adult supervision. Babies and toddlers under 2 should never wear masks.

What to do if you or your child tests positive for COVID-19

Getting sick means at least 5 missed days of school and work, which can be especially difficult for parents who can’t afford to miss days or don’t have access to childcare. But it’s also so important that your family gets well and that you keep COVID from spreading to others. If you or your child is showing symptoms of COVID-19, even if you don’t have test results yet, you should stay home to protect others. If you need food or other assistance while self-isolating, please call the state’s COVID-19 information hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #1.

Parents and children who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and self-isolate for at least 5 days.

Note: You will need to stay home for these 5 days even if you test again and get a negative test during that time.

  • You can return to work and school if you test negative on day 5.
  • If you test positive, continue to self-isolate for another 5 days.
  • Continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days and 11 days around people who are at high risk for COVID-19.
  • When students and children return from 5-day isolation, they should wear a well-fitting mask from the 6th to the 10th day.
  • Students should test before returning to school if possible.

Learn how to do a COVID-19 self-test for yourself or your child is the video below, and don’t forget to stock up on FREE COVID-19 self-tests.

Public Health demonstrates how to self-test for COVID-19.

Don’t risk children bringing home COVID-19 with their homework

Protecting the health of our children also protects the school community, especially the most vulnerable such as immunocompromised teachers and classmates, as well as older people such as grandparents. We know it’s not easy to keep up with the changing guidelines, but your efforts as we head back to school are critical. Thank you for all you do!

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens, visit kingcounty.gov/vaccine/youth.

Originally published on August 23, 2022.


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