The new school year is already a disaster: Thousands of students are quarantining as COVID-19 cases skyrocket among kids

COVID-19-related outbreaks have forced thousands of students into quarantine just days into the school year.Experts predict that the number of pediatric infections will rise further, which could lead to school closings.Students are not protected if mask mandates are banned while children wait for vaccine authorization.Insider Healthcare: Get the latest news and analysis in healthcare Loading Click to sign up for marketing emails from Insider and other partners. You also agree to our Terms of Service & Privacy PolicyThousands of children across the US have been asked to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 just days into the new schoolyear.According to state data, 4,400 students were quarantined in Mississippi between August 2 and 6. This is despite the fact that daily cases have increased by nearly twofold in the past two weeks. Since August 5, nearly 40% of students at Pearl River Central High School in Mississippi have been quarantined. According to the Mississippi Free Press, the entire school district decided to go virtual for at most two weeks to ensure safety.In Reno, Nevada, over 80 students were likely to have been exposed to COVID-19 Monday by a parent who knowingly sent their child infected to school.Richard Besser, former acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that "I think this autumn is going to be really difficult for schools." "I believe children belong in the classroom. We'll see little outbreaks, clusters of schools in different schools, schools closing down, reopening.Besser stated that he expects schools to close down more often than last year.Already, the rate of childhood infections is on the rise. Between July 30th and August 5, nearly 94,000 COVID-19-infected children were reported in the US. This is more than twice the number of cases that had been reported during the previous two weeks. As shown in the chart below, pediatric hospitalizations have increased 27% on average in the past week.Children under 18 years old are admitted to COVID-19 hospitals. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionScientists agree that school outbreaks are more likely due to the Delta variant. According to one estimate, the variant is up to three times more contagious than the original virus. Vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others."The Delta variant has presented a new and urgent risk to children and teenagers across the country, as it did for unvaccinated adults," Dr. Lee Savio Beers (president of the American Academy of Pediatrics) wrote in a recent letter addressed to the Food and Drug Administration.The FDA was asked to authorize COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.Florida and Texas have difficultly controlling transmission due to bans on mask mandatesHugo Bautista, a freshman at Wyandotte Country High School in Kansas City (Kansas), eats his lunch separately from his classmates using plastic dividers on March 31, 2021. AP Photo/Charlie RiedelLast fall's school transmission studies showed that social distancing and masks reduced the spread of COVID-19. Although the science isn't changing, Delta offers even more room for error."Masking is still a good strategy for Delta. It's just that you need to be more careful," Hilary Babcock (medical director of infection prevention at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Missouri) recently explained to Insider.Both the Texas Governor and Florida Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently outlawed school mask mandates. DeSantis threatened Monday to stop funding schools that use masks.Texas and Florida are experiencing more pediatric hospitalizations daily than any other US state. Between August 1st and September 9, Texas averaged 54 pediatric hospitalizations per night (the most current data available). Florida saw 40 pediatric hospitalizations per days during the same time period. During that period, the national average was only five pediatric hospitalizations per day.However, several Florida and Texas counties are challenging their state's anti–mask policies. Texas officials from Dallas and Bexar counties won court orders to challenge Abbott's ban on school masks. Despite DeSantis' rule, some Florida counties, such as Palm Beach, still require that face coverings be worn inside schools and on school transport.Nearly 500 students in Palm Beach had been quarantined as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 only two days earlier. According to local CBS12, up to 6,400 students in Palm Beach didn't use masks during the first few classes despite being required by law.It has been difficult for some Texas schools to enforce the mask requirements."People can't be asked to wear masks. People can't be forced to leave the house. It is not possible to require that people get tested. "I felt safer coming back to school last year than I feel this year," Becca Harkleroad (a Central Texas school nurse) said Thursday.One hope is that vaccines could soon be available for children aged 5-11 years old: Pfizer expects data on its vaccine's effectiveness among this age group by September. This would allow the US to begin administering vaccines to children as early as October, provided that the FDA approves.