Rossen Reports: Ranking risks of back-to-school activities

The number of children that are being hospitalized across the country is at its highest level in over a year.


Millions of kids are back in school. The newest challenge they’re facing, avoiding getting sick with the delta variant of COVID-19.

The number of children that are being hospitalized across the country is at its highest level in over a year. Moms and dads have reached out to us, anxious over sending their kids back into schools for in-person learning. We posted a survey, asking you what areas make you the most nervous? We then had our medical expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, rank the risk of each spot.

Waking up with a cough and runny nose: High risk. If your child wakes up with any of the COVID-19 or flu symptoms, Dr. Adalja says the transmission risk can be high, especially for unvaccinated kids. Parents should get their child tested immediately either at the doctor or by using an at-home test. Even if they test negative, it’s best to keep your child at home to keep them from spreading any other type of virus.

On the school bus: Low risk. In our survey, just over 25% of you were worried about the school bus. With the opening of windows and the door, good ventilation decreases the risk of COVID-19. Many school bus companies and districts have mandated masks, are social distancing kids sitting on the bus, have the drivers sanitizing their buses between routes and have hand sanitizer available for all kids to use.

Gym class: Medium risk. Since kids are exercising, breathing heavily and emanating more spit particles from their mouth; the transmission risk is higher. Especially if masks aren’t being worn. This risk can be mitigated by opening windows and doors in the gymnasium or having gym class outside.

Classroom without masks: Medium risk. In our survey, almost 25% of you say you are concerned about the classroom. Kids sitting in a classroom for hours on end means there is a medium risk of transmission. Opening windows, positioning desks 6 feet apart, wearing masks and having a vaccinated teacher will lower the risk.

Classroom with masks: Low risk. Dr. Adalja says there is data that shows schooling could be conducted safely with masks and social distancing and that was the case even before vaccines were available. He says transmission wasn’t being driven by classrooms but sports and extracurricular activities in the pre-vaccine era.

Lunchtime in the cafeteria: Medium risk. This is the area almost half of you were concerned about when we looked at our survey results. When kids eat, the masks come off. This risk can be mitigated by opening windows to get better ventilation into the cafeteria. Kids should also be social distanced and sit with their classes to keep transmission down.

Sports/Outdoor extracurriculars: Low risk. We know that outdoor transmission is not a major way that the virus spreads. Dr. Adalja says schools should follow this and move indoor activities to outdoors, which decreases risks and decrease the reliance on masks.

Morning carpool: Medium risk. If multiple families are involved in the carpool, it’s a medium risk. The risk can be lowered if you create a carpool pod with just one other family. Medical experts advise those adults to be vaccinated, everyone in the carpool should wear masks and windows should be rolled down.

Recess: Low risk. Outdoor transmission is not a major way that the virus spreads, so kids on the playground and running around outside is generally safe.