Thursday, December 02, 2021

Plan aims to thwart school closures and mass quarantines during the 2021-22 school year

(Courtesy of Sheba Medical Center) With Israel’s new school year quickly approaching, Sheba Medical Center, the largest and most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East, presented their Green Classroom Plan this week, which aims to decrease the number of quarantined children, parents and teachers due to COVID-19, allowing schools to stay open and parents to remain at work. The plan was presented to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton in the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba Medical Center.

The Green Classroom was conceived under the direction of Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of Sheba’s Infectious Diseases Unit, in an effort to minimize the resurgence of COVID-19 in classrooms to avoid the academic, social and psychological effects that stem from inevitable school closures that result from an outbreak. In addition to the adverse effects on children, school closures have serious consequences on the country’s economy by forcing parents to stay home from work to care for their children.

Sheba has been at the forefront of Israel’s fight against COVID-19, providing advanced medical care and leading research that has been shaping coronavirus policies within Israel and beyond. Sheba was the first hospital in the world to administer a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to immunocompromised patients in mid-July and Israeli President Isaac Herzog received his third dose this week at Sheba, initiating the country’s campaign to administer boosters to citizens aged 60 and over.

“We have an obligation to diminish as much as possible quarantining among children [exposed to a confirmed carrier], in order to retain a sense of routine and happiness among children and keep them in school on a continuous basis, allowing their parents to keep working uninterrupted as much as possible,” said Dr. Itai Pessach, director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba Medical Center. “We’re pleased with the contributions of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education toward implementation of this plan.”

The Green Classroom will be initiated with testing all preschool through sixth-grade schoolchildren for antibodies. Those who present sufficient antibodies—due to either being vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19—will not need to quarantine after exposure to a confirmed case upon a negative coronavirus test result. Instead, they will undergo daily antigen testing for seven days from exposure, allowing them to remain in school but ensuring positive cases are identified as early as possible.

The Green Classroom is based on scientific research, including a Sheba pilot study and trials conducted during the 2020-2021 school year. Under the program, school principals will receive support in implementing their plan, which will be carried out in conjunction with epidemiological health surveillance and the monitoring of local morbidity levels.

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