Getting answers: I’m a teacher. How can I best keep my unvaccinated students safe?

Getting Answers - COVID-19

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s been a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in North Carolina, and CBS 17 News is getting answers to questions you asked us about the coronavirus.

YOUR QUESTION: “As an educator, I am very thankful to have received my first dose of the vaccine but I am going back into work with students who have not been vaccinated. When would that happen and what precautions do I need to keep taking?”

OUR ANSWER: It’s unclear when school-aged children will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine because none of the three products on the market — from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — are authorized for anyone younger than 16.

Dr. Joe Eron of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine says that authorization likely won’t come until — at the earliest — the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

Until then, experts say it’s best for teachers in classrooms to keep doing the same things they’ve been doing — wearing masks, keeping a safe distance and washing your hands.

“You still need to be taking precautions to protect those around us from getting the infection,” said Dr. Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International.

While the vaccine is designed to prevent you from getting sick, it’s still unknown whether — or to what extent — you can still spread the coronavirus to other people.

“While that’s unknown, we need to be wearing a mask and physically distancing at a minimum,” MacDonald said.

Experts also suggest bringing classes outside — if possible — for fresh air because the virus tends to spread more easily indoors. Plus, it offers more of an opportunity for physical distancing.

And self-care is important, too: Dr. Lisa Pickett of Duke University Hospital says eating properly, getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated is critical for staying as healthy as possible.

And in addition to a mask, Eron recommends either a face shield, goggles or some type of eye protection.

“I wouldn’t be afraid of the students. I think they need you. You’re so important,” Eron said. “But that’s what I would do. I would mask, wash my hands, wear a face shield, and hope by the fall kids will be vaccinated too.”

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