A couple of weeks ago, my son, Theo, had trouble falling asleep so he and I did a mindfulness activity on gratitude. He was grateful for being at school four days a week. He is not alone. As a pediatrician, I see kids in my office all day who feel this way. And honestly, as a parent, I feel this way, too.

I am honored to serve as physician consultant to my local school district’s reopening committee. As part of my role, I have met with teachers and administrators as they reopen grades K-6 to full time in-person learning. I am amazed at how our teachers, staff and administrators are bending over backwards to keep our children safe at school. I read the revised Strong and Healthy Start document from the Agency on Education and Department of Health. There are so many guidelines, but our schools make sure every single guideline is in place to keep our kids safe. And these heroic efforts are working, there is little to no transmission of COVID-19 within schools in Vermont. That is incredible; thank you, schools!

Parents and guardians, it is now our turn to step up and show that same level of commitment to our community. It is our job to keep COVID-19 out of the schools. It is clear that social gatherings, not schools, are causing the surge in cases. Given this data, Gov. Scott released a new executive order to refrain from any social gatherings. At a time when pandemic fatigue is at its highest, we are being asked to go further and do more to restrict our social activities. These new orders are really hard for all of us. Despite the challenge, we must make these drastic changes so we can keep our community safe and our children in school.

Since opening in September, schools have made sacrifices for our children and now we must do the same for them. Here is the really hard part. We need to seriously think about the coming holidays and how we can keep our children, teachers and schools safe and healthy. This means not traveling or having extended family gatherings for the holidays. If Vermonters travel or attend family gatherings for the holidays and COVID-19 cases increase even more, we may be in the same position we were in the spring or worse. We must do everything we can to prevent that! Changing our holiday plans is really hard, I know. I am devastated about this, too — family and friends are extraordinarily important to us.

Vermont continues to lead the country in management of COVID-19. We continue to have a very robust and phenomenal contact-tracing program to find cases and prevent the spread of the virus. Despite that, we are seeing increased cases of COVID-19, and we are certainly not immune. Please do your part to keep COVID-19 out of the schools so we can keep our kids in school and our schools healthy. This is on us, parents, and I know we can do it.

If you have questions about prevention, safety and Gov. Scott’s recent executive order prohibiting any social gatherings, look to this webpage www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19 for information.

Leah Costello works at Timber Lane Pediatrics in South Burlington.

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