Rochester, New York – One week since face masks were deemed optional in schools and daycares across New York state, pediatricians are seeing an influx of children developing mild illnesses, like the common cold and the stomach bug.
After the February break, students have returned to the classroom, and in a week’s time, both medical and school professionals say they’re seeing some illnesses they might not have seen as much during the height of the pandemic.
Lyndsay Ploof of Pittsford just got rid of the cold in her house.
“We definitely have felt it in our house,” she said. “They both had runny noses and a cough. Sadly, I think in the last few weeks it’s going around more.”
According to Dr. Elizabeth Murray of the University of Rochester Medical Center, a number of factors are to blame.
“I don’t know if it’s just because of a few days post-masks coming off. I think there are a couple of things going on. But once these germs are in a classroom or in a daycare setting, they do tend to spread very, very quickly,” she said. “If we’ve removed a layer of protection, it is not surprising to see many children in the class or adults in the classroom develop the symptoms as well.”
According to Pinnacle Lutheran Daycare in Henrietta, Executive Director Sarah Cole, since the mask mandate was lifted, there has been an increase in the number of children out sick.
Cole says they’re working with parents to discuss possible next steps.
“I would say of my five classrooms at this site, all probably have had two to five children out a day, which is significantly more than normal,” she said.
“It was important for me to let parents know we’re seeing that difference, because then if they want to reevaluate if their child is wearing a mask or not, they should do that,” Cole said.
Dr. Murray cautions parents and children to pay close attention to symptoms, continue proper handwashing, and test for illnesses when appropriate.
“We want kids to be in school. We don’t want kids sick with whatever the germ may be,” Dr. Murray said.
“I think these germs are always still around,” she added. “We’ve just kept them at bay and they will come back like they always do.”
According to Dr. Murray, when it comes to flu cases, current numbers are considerably low, but it is something doctors are keeping a close eye on going forward.