WAUTOMA, Wis. – ThedaCare’s Dr. Long Nguyen said parents need to prepare their children to be safe once they return to school in person this January.

Many Wisconsin school districts said they would return to in-person learning in January after going virtual due to a surge in cases of COVID-19 in the fall. Nguyen, who works for ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma, said students need to follow certain safety precautions when they go back to school so they don’t spread the COVID-19 virus or bring it home to their families.

“Just even here, in the rural area, at the beginning of the pandemic we were noticing that students were asymptomatic and 2-3 weeks later they were having the sniffles and then it spread throughout the family,” said Nguyen. “You can spread it asymptomatically and so as students go back it’s definitely a fear we have and that’s why we’re reiterating it.”

He said the virus spreads primarily through droplets or aerosols released from the mouth and nose when we breathe, talk, cough, laugh or sing. He stresses students need to properly wear face masks, social distance, and frequently wash their hands to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Nguyen said if kids don’t take these measures, there’s a good chance Wisconsin could experience another surge in cases. He’s trying to avoid the public falling into a trap of complacency.

“The trap of, ‘Hey, we have a vaccine, we can let loose, we can probably travel more, we can do all these things,’ but people have to realize the vaccine is not widely available for the community yet,” he said. “It’s going to still take several weeks to months before it’s available, and then you have to distribute it, and then you not only have to get one vaccine, but you have to get a second dose as well. This is going to be another five or six months if not up to a year before a bigger population will be immunized and be safe enough to try to get back to normal.”

Nguyen said it’s also important to send kids to school with supplies like: ​

  • Small hand sanitizer bottles, with the sanitizer containing at least 60-percent alcohol

  • Tissues for any sniffles

  • Extra face masks with the child’s name written on them to prevent any mix-ups with other students

  • A plastic container or re-sealable plastic bag for face mask storage