By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – After hearing from Dr. Donald Beno, a board-certified pediatrician with Aurora Health Care, students in grades 4K-6 in the De Pere School District will continue to wear facemasks until the spread of COVID-19 significantly decreases.
On Monday, Oct. 5, the School Board reviewed the policy, which has been in place for about a month.
Beno spoke on the current local situation and gave mitigation strategy recommendations.
In addition to serving as a pediatrician, Beno is also chief of staff at Aurora Baycare Medical Center, associate chief medical officer at Aurora Baycare and a clinical adjunct associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
The delta variant is different from earlier versions of COVID-19, which didn’t affect youngsters to the degree currently seen, he said.
“Twenty-seven percent of weekly new infections are in children,” Beno said.
He said one young person in his practice was infected three times, each time becoming worse until being vaccinated.
Beno said the delta variant spreads more easily than earlier variants.
“Whereas each person infected with the (earlier variant) coronavirus infected, on average, one or two others, each delta variant infection spreads to five other people,” he said.
Symptoms with delta include vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues, and because those are different from symptoms when the virus started, the delta variant is more difficult to recognize, Beno said.
He also said a symptom-free infection should be taken seriously.
“Just because a person has mild symptoms doesn’t mean that other people they infect won’t have severe symptoms or even death,” Beno said.
He told the School Board he advises masking, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands and not touching one’s face or eyes, and when people are sick, to stay home.
“Just because you had the virus once doesn’t mean you can’t have it again,” Beno said.
He said it’s important for students who feel fine after close contact with a person who tested positive to quarantine at home.
“Seven to 10 days is when a person who is infected is contagious, and it’s the period when secondary infections might be expected to break out,” Beno said.
Activities kids tend to do together in groups, such as singing, screaming and cheering, also tend to spread the virus, he said.
Beno said antibodies aren’t necessarily a replacement for other mitigation efforts.
“Antibody tests show that someone had an exposure to the virus and developed a reaction, an immune response, to it,” he said. “It does not mean that they are immune. It doesn’t mean you can’t get sick again. You can get sick again, and it’s thought that after 90 days after an infection, antibodies (wane). You’re just as likely to be reinfected as you were before you got infected.”
During the meeting, Beno, who was on the agenda as part of the meeting, was interrupted several times by parents in the audience.
The board decided the mask requirement for students in lower grades will continue to be in place until the seven-day positivity rate in Brown County drops to 100 cases or fewer per 100,000 people.
As of Wednesday, that number was 419.
For students in grades 7-12, masks remain optional but strongly recommended.
The School Board next meets Oct. 18.