Pediatricians, physicians and healthcare providers sign open letter to schools and parents about a safe return to the classroom

Nearly 500 pediatricians, other physicians and providers caring for Wisconsin’s children signed an open letter to parents and schools urging masking and other mitigation measures as part of a safe return to school amidst this latest surge of COVID-19.

“Children are our most precious resource, and we must do everything we can to keep them safe as they return to the classroom,” said Dr. Ellen Wald, chair of the department of pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and infectious disease physician at UW Health. “In-person learning is important for our children. This letter is all about how we can work together – parents, teachers, schools and healthcare providers - to have a safe and positive return to school this year.”

Below is the open letter and list of current signatures.

An open letter to Wisconsin schools and parents

As healthcare providers and physicians, we have dedicated our lives to protecting and improving the health of children throughout Wisconsin and our many communities.

As this latest surge of COVID-19 converges with the start of school, we are presented with a new and critical challenge. Our children reap great benefits from a return to in-person schooling. But we must ensure that those schools are safe.

The good news is we can do this. We’ve learned so much over the last year about this virus – prevention, treatment and how we can manage our facilities and our interactions to avoid rapid spread. That knowledge presents us with a clear path forward.

The challenge is, we can only do it by working together.

Our children don’t have a say over what school district policies will be. And most of our children don’t yet have access to the added protection of a vaccine. That’s why it is so important that school boards, school administrators, teachers and parents come together behind a few simple, science-based and tested methods to bring our kids safely back into the classroom.

  • We need to mask up. Studies show that universal masking prevents the spread of COVID-19, and masks are safe for children as young as 2 years old. Universal masking allows for modified quarantining in certain cases, which should increase in-person attendance. It is simply the most important thing we can do right now to ensure that our schools are safe.

  • Maintain 3 feet of distance between people whenever possible. Whether it’s in classrooms, hallways or buses, a small amount of physical distancing goes a long way in preventing spread of the virus. Where distancing is not possible, mask wearing is increasingly important.

  • Those who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated. That includes parents, teachers, staff and all those children age 12 and up. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, they are effective and they are the most powerful tool we have in our efforts to end this long pandemic.

  • Follow simple public health recommendations. Wash your hands, cover your coughs and keep your kids home if they’re sick.

Our children need to be in school. And our schools need to be safe for our children. We know it can be done with great effect and without great disruption.

It may seem like these pandemic restrictions will be around forever, but they won’t. We will get past this. But until we do, our hopes lie with all of you and with our ability to work together on a safe, happy and effective return to school.

Signed,