These are undoubtedly uncertain and daunting times for parents, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across North Texas.
A mother in Denton County is pleading with others around her children to mask up when they’re at school.
Micah Carlson said she penned a letter to her little girls ahead of the new school year -- a year that began without a mask mandate at school.
"Dear Charlie and Sophie, I’m sorry. Tomorrow I will have to send you back to school."
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The Denton ISD parent then shared her open letter with the Denton Record-Chronicle in hopes of reaching parents sending their children to school without a mask.
“To those parents out there,” she said, overcome with emotion and pausing. “I am just pleading with you to give us the time to get vaccines. I understand that you fully have the right to make choices for your children. I respect that. We all have the right to make choices every day. I’m just asking you to be my neighbor and help my family until we can get vaccinated.”
Carlson is vaccinated. Her daughters, a kindergartner and a first-grader, are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines have been approved for those 12 and older.
Denton ISD, on Thursday, began temporarily mandating masks for students, staff and visitors indoors where social distancing is not possible.
COVID-19 cases have shot up since the start of the school year.
"This week, the district has recorded 309 COVID-19 student cases and 43 staff cases. Today is the district’s 12th day of in-person instruction. Since school began on Thursday, Aug. 12, Denton ISD has recorded 427 student cases and 67 staff cases, causing the district to begin closing classes where there are clusters of reports," a district spokesperson said in a written statement Friday.
So far, fewer than five classes have been quarantined, according to Jackson.
“It is spreading in an exponential way and we have to cut it off,” Carlson said. “We have to break the cycle and we have to do it together.”
Carlson said some students still aren’t masking up, which leaves her concerned for her girls’ wellbeing.
“Sophie is 12-24 inches from four of her friends, five of her friends and of that two of them are unmasked and that’s difficult,” she said.
Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth was caring for 25 children with COVID-19 Friday, including eight in the ICU.
The number of patients with COVID-19 and those suffering other health emergencies continues to spread frontline workers thin.
“I can tell you, there has never been an August like this I think in the history of me practicing,” pediatrician Dr. Diane Arnaout said. “We are seeing more patients now than we’ve seen in some of our worst winters.”
Arnaout said medical staff regularly received "high census alerts" indicating a high number of patients.
The number of available, staffed beds differs day to day, but Cook Children’s had beds available Friday.
“Viruses like this are vicious and this Delta variant seems a little more vicious than versions before it," Arnaout said. "That’s definitely not something that I have studies to support right now, but in talking to my colleagues one of them told me, 'This is a whole new ballgame with kids. We are seeing kids who are so much younger, adults who are so much younger in the hospital and on high levels of care in the ICU with it.'"
The continued surge of patients overall could threaten hospitals' ability to quickly care for children suffering other emergencies. For example, cancer patients with a fever or a child with a traumatic injury, Arnout said.
“I just want people to know that when you go to the ER, there’s probably going to be a six to eight-hour wait,” she said.
When it comes to the debate over masks, Arnout said it’s a no-brainer, even for her own children.
“We have talked about it together and they know when they go outside, they can take a break. When they’re eating lunch, they can take a break. But otherwise, that mask is expected to be on while they’re in an indoor setting,” she said. “We also know the more people wear a mask in the classroom, the better masks work. So, I think that’s a no-brainer. I would be sending my child, and am sending my children, to school in a mask.”
The Denton County Health Department reported four new COVID-19 deaths Friday.
The victims were in their 60s and 70s, according to the department. The county does not include vaccination status in updates.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 659 people in Denton County.