The term “tripledemic” recently became part of our vocabulary. Why? Because the winter of 2023 is anticipated to bring a triple threat to public health with the confluence of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza (flu), and Covid-19.
Data suggests that the U.S. is in for a worse than average flu season, with more people getting sick than we have seen in past years. At the same time, high levels of RSV in children are already overwhelming hospitals across the country, while the possibility of new COVID variants loom.
How can schools be prepared to come back to school in 2023 amidst all this?
Here are our recommendations:
Maintain the health practices and protocols you’ve used to keep students and staff safe during Covid, such as:
- Washing hands regularly,
- Sanitizing classroom materials,
- Asking students and staff with symptoms to stay home, etc.
Plan to mask when transmission is high
- Universal masking was helpful last year when the levels of virus transmission were highest. If your school has moved away from universal masking, consider reinstating it once transmission reaches a high threshold in your community.
- Update your policies now to ensure you’re ready if and when they’re needed.
Encourage vaccination for both Covid and the flu to reduce the number of students and staff impacted by each virus.
- Partner with local pharmacies or health departments to offer on-campus vax clinics. (The new bivalent boosters are recommended.)
- Order extra PPE so you’re not scrambling to get it once the school year resumes
- Ensure your school’s health office infrastructure is intact to meet the needs of sick students and staff.
Update your communication templates
- Ensure you have key templates ready for families, students and staff.
- Confirm contact information when students return to school to ensure all databases are up to date
Think through testing policies for after winter break now
- Communicate the policies with families and staff before the break
- Order tests as needed
While we don’t know what the outcome of the tripledemic will be, we know there are several things we can do as a school community to support ongoing health and wellness. Consider these small steps now, as they could have a big payoff later.