As the trend of flattened COVID-19 cases persist countywide and vaccination rates hover close to 90 percent, White Plains Public Schools are partnering with the Westchester County Department of Health to help the pediatric population get inoculated.
“We’re at the advent right now, the beginning of pediatric vaccination opportunity, and we are very fortunate in our partnership with the county,” Dr. Joseph Ricca, Superintendent of Schools, said at the White Plains Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Nov. 8.
On Nov. 10, the district was the among the first to offer the opportunity for parents and guardians to get their children ages five to 11 vaccinated at the Department of Health in White Plains.
“We sent a link out for folks to sign up this afternoon, and within about 90 minutes, the 270 slots that were available for the initial round were already taken,” Ricca said.
An attendee at the BOE meeting said that when going to secure an appointment for his child that afternoon, there were only five spots left. Ricca said the district will be offering more opportunities for children, especially as many pediatrician’s offices are backed up.
“For those who cannot get [a vaccine appointment] either at their pediatrician or through the Department of Health, they are going to be offered at many of the pharmacies locally,” BOE Member Dr. Randy Stein said. “It’s incredibly exciting.”
With vaccinating the pediatric population beginning, Ricca said he has received many questions about two topics: the Test-to-Stay program, which is when a contact or potential contact of somebody has COVID-19 can test and then avoid quarantine, and when masking guidelines for the district will change.
Ricca said the county is currently exploring the Test-to-Stay program. Regarding if and when guidance on masking will change, Ricca said, they don’t yet have the answer to that question.
“Conversations that we’ve seen at the CDC are linking that off-ramp to vaccination efforts,” Ricca said. “So, we’re going to do as much as we can to get those [vaccination] opportunities and make them available for everyone.”
BOE member Rose Lovitch reiterated that while many people feel that children, especially very young children, are not at risk for contracting COVID-19, kids as young as five months old have gotten sick.
A woman who works at a daycare center told Lovitch that they recently had both a five-month-old and 11-month-old child contract the disease.
“This disease is relentless,” Lovitch said. “It does not show prejudice, it does not care about age, it does not care about anything other than the fact that it’s going to keep attacking anyone who is not protected.”
Lovitch said it’s crucial to keep trying to urge friends and loved ones who think COVID-19 is a hoax that it is indeed real and encourage them to protect themselves and their families.
“The children are starting to show signs, and to me, that’s heartbreaking,” Lovitch said.