By Peter Pogacar
As a pediatrician and vice president of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I have been answering questions from parents for 18 months about the COVID-19 pandemic. I want my patients and my own children to be safe while participating in school, in activities and in our community. As we learn more about the virus and as new variants emerge, it can be challenging to adapt to changing recommendations from the medical community.
On Oct. 5, East Greenwich will hold a School Committee special election. It is important that East Greenwich residents elect a candidate who will follow the recommendations put forth by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Education. During this pandemic, our expert pediatric physicians at RIDOH, with input from experts in the community, have worked diligently to create the safest plan for our children. The product is known as the K-12 COVID playbook. This blueprint gives school health officials, staff and parents guidance to minimize illness and maximize our kids’ time in school. This dynamic plan includes multiple respiratory disease mitigation strategies including universal masking, contact tracing, testing and appropriate quarantines. This plan was not created by politicians, but by the same physicians we all rely on when our children are most ill. It is of utmost importance that we follow science and expert opinion when dealing with a public health emergency.
We also have a COVID vaccine that is approved for use for all Rhode Islanders age 12 and older. The approval for those older than 5 is right around the corner. The better vaccinated we are as a community, the better protected we all will be. We need all our leaders on every level to recognize this fact and help vaccinate our state to the greatest extent possible.
When talking to parents, I sympathize with the tough decisions that come with balancing disease mitigation and “getting back to normal.” I too am a father and face the same questions. I feel incredibly grateful to have such dedicated and compassionate professionals at the RIDOH who have provided such clear and consistent guidance. It can be tough to navigate the changing COVID landscape, which is why we need to elect representatives who will listen to the experts and implement policies based on science and reason.
Peter Pogacar, M.D., is a pediatrician at East Greenwich Pediatrics and vice president of the R.I. chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He lives in East Greenwich.