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"It's like fighting a ghost" | Back-to-school brings risk of increased COVID-19 cases

The Knox County Health Department agreed with new CDC guidelines in strongly recommending masks inside Knox County schools.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — As kids go back to school, health experts said that the risk for another major COVID-19 outbreak is rising.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on Tuesday which encouraged everyone to wear masks at school, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. This includes wearing masks inside for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools.

Dena Mashburn, the Director of Nursing at the Knox County Health Department said they agree with the CDC's guidance.

"They're recommending that masks be worn in the school environment so that's, of course, what we recommend," Mashburn said.

In 2020, some studies pointed to children as possible superspreaders for COVID-19. Mashburn said that children often may not show symptoms, but can carry the coronavirus to another child or to family members who are more at risk.

RELATED: CDC recommends nearly all East Tennessee counties return to wearing masks inside, including vaccinated people

"In a lot of ways, it is like fighting a ghost," Mashburn said, "In these younger ages, we don't see as strong of symptoms."

As a parent, there are some things you can do to prevent your kid from contracting or spreading the virus. Mashburn said prevention starts with a conversation.

"The most important thing is is that a parent talks with their child about what their expectations are," Mashburn said.

This includes encouraging kids to use hand sanitizer when it is available, coughing into their elbows, and making sure not to touch their eyes nose or mouth without clean hands.

"We've also found that most kids, if you set the expectations and make it a thing, they follow those things pretty easily," Mashburn said.

Although the CDC highly recommended masks for everyone in schools, Knox County Schools said they were not planning to make any changes to their policies unless the Board of Education's previous policy requiring masks is reinstated.

The Knox County Health Department said it's working on an agreement with Knox County Schools to establish a contact-tracing plan for students who are exposed to COVID-19. 


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