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How parents can prepare for a COVID-19 infection at the house

Nearly 5,000 Texas students have already contracted COVID-19. Doctors say parents should plan ahead so kids exposed at school don't infect family at home.

SAN ANTONIO — Two weeks into the school year, 4,729 Texas public school students have tested positive for the coronavirus. Another 3,373 school staff have reported positive tests, too. 

The state reports data a week after its collection, meaning the case numbers are actually higher than reflected in the state's weekly report issued Friday. 

Meanwhile, educators and municipalities are engaged in a legal fight with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has limited schools' ability to impose mask mandates. 

Children younger than 12 are not eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, meaning elementary school students are largely unprotected. Parents say they're concerned their children will catch COVID-19 at school and bring the virus home. 

"As you do for hurricanes, the best time to prepare is before the storm," said Dr. Juan Ferreris, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of San Antonio.

He suggests parents form a "just in case" plan as soon as possible. A well-formed strategy can reduce the likelihood an infected child spreads COVID-19 to a family member.

"Create a little list," Ferreris said. "What are we going to do? How do we separate? What is our action plan? Which parent is going to take over?"

The pediatrician recommends designating an area of the house for quarantining. If possible, it should include restroom access and a window to promote circulation. 

Moving a mini-refrigerator into this area can be helpful, too, though not all families will be able to execute this. 

"If you are able to, separate the kid with a parent who might be either exposed or sick. That would be ideal," Ferreris said. "The less mingling during the first week, the better." 

"I've seen families who are sort of hunkered down that way, and some of the family members who are separated don't get sick," he continued.

If it's not possible to completely isolate a sick child with a parent, family members should all mask up in common areas. 

He says parents should divvy up responsibilities now, assuming one parent has to stay home with the sick child. This can help ensure errands and chores are completed. 

"Parents that have kids separated in age are very familiar with that tag-team approach, right? We're all on the same team, but we can't do everything together," he said. "But we're going to get through it together." 

If a child is infected, Ferreris recommends he or she spend time outside during quarantine. The sun's rays deliver large amounts of Vitamin D, which is important for the immune system. 

The doctor says parents should walk through the plan with their children in a way that is not intimidating. They may become unnecessarily "spooked," he says, if they hear they have COVID-19. 

The vaccine is still the most effective way to protect family members, he says.

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