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COVID: Highly-Contagious Delta Variant Has Some Parents Rethinking Back-To-School Plans

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- With new information from the Centers for Disease Control suggesting the Delta variant of the coronavirus may be as contagious as chickenpox, it's forcing some parents to reassess whether or not to send their kids to school for in-person instruction this Fall.

Oakland Unified School District is opening on August 9 for the new school year. The district said only a few hundred students out of the roughly 36,000 students have requested distance learning. But the Delta variant could increase the number of students who opt to do online learning.

Mario Zambrano has two sons in OUSD. His 13-year-old son, Ethan Zambrano, will be entering high school as a freshman. While he thinks Ethan should be safe, he worries about sending his younger son back to school. Kids under 12 cannot get vaccinated.

"My six-year-old, he does have certain bronchitis, lung conditions. So I think about that and I say no, I don't want to (send him to school.) It's tough," said Zambrano.

Many Bay Area parents are facing the same dilemma after hearing about how contagious the Delta variant can be.

"Yeah, it does worry me a lot and I think with this new information now, it's sort of time to sit down with my wife and reassess," said Zambrano.

Many students said they're fed up with Zoom. They want to go back to school.

"Mostly to socialize with my peers. And I think although online learning is good, it's not the same as the real thing," said Ethan Zambrano.

"Because I'm wearing a mask, it helps me know that I'm safe, said 6-year-old Wesley McDonell, who's entering first grade in Oakland Unified.

"We're moderately comfortable, but nervous," said Morgan McDonell, Wesley's mom.

She said she will keep stressing to her kids the importance of masking and handwashing in school.

"We're definitely eager for the kids to get back to school. He misses his friends like crazy, and we're all looking forward to more normalcy," said McDonell.

"The school environment as we know it right now is still going to be safe," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and an Infectious Disease Specialist at UCSF.

Doctor Chin-Hong said because of their biological makeup, kids are less likely to get the virus. He said no need for parents to panic.

"(For parents,) you should get vaccinated if you really want to protect your kids and build a wall of vaccinated people around your kids," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

Berkeley Unified School District, Mount Diablo Unified School District, and Oakland Unified said on Friday the Delta variant hasn't caused any changes to their reopening plans. Aside from more cleaning and better ventilation, they said the main protection is for everyone to mask up indoors.

The Alameda County Health Department told KPIX 5 there are no changes for the schools at this time. They are aligned with the state's guidance on reopening schools.

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