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Doctors caution against maskless return to school for unvaccinated students

This year, many school districts have opted for less restrictive plans as school starts.

INDIANAPOLIS — Children are often seen as less vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. But even today at Riley Children’s Hospital, doctors continue to see young patients with the virus.

“Several get admitted to the hospital, several get admitted to the intensive care unit. We still seeing the multi-system inflammatory disease,” said Dr. John Christenson, Riley’s medical director of infection prevention.

Rising cases from the delta variant has not been of any help.

But what Christenson is more concerned about is what will happen in the coming weeks and months as millions of students head back to school.

“We know very well, especially the younger children, have not been vaccinated yet, so there can still be transmission in that community,” said Christenson.

Last year, schools went heavy with COVID restrictions.

RELATED: IPS teachers react to district's new COVID-19 protocols

But this year, many school districts have opted for less restrictive plans as school starts. Most will not have a requirement for masks, even for students who aren’t old enough to be eligible for a vaccine.

Of the plans released so far, 13News only confirmed four central Indiana school districts where masking will still be mandated for students under 12: Indianapolis Public Schools, MSD Pike Township, MSD Wayne Township and West Lafayette Community Schools.

Christenson said with loose guidelines, the bigger risk maybe to everyone else inside schools.

RELATED: IPS unveils protocols on face masks, vaccinations for upcoming school year

“If there is one group of people who are going to be at the highest risk of coming down with coronavirus, it is going to be those teachers and staff who work at the school who have decided not to be vaccinated,” he said.

Christenson prefers schools stay with what has worked.

“We know that those strategies work. Until we can get everybody vaccinated, we need to continue those strategies,” he said.

The Hamilton County Health Department is hosting a town hall on Thursday, July 22 to help answer questions that parents have about getting their kids vaccinated against COVID-19. Those interested can join the virtual town hall at this link here.