PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the new school year begins, parents are making sure their kids are safe and prepared for everything.

Students returning to the classroom will feel as close to normal as possible after spending the last almost two years dodging COVID-19.

On March 4, the statewide school mask mandate was lifted allowing local school districts to have the power and set their own mask policies.

“I’m very excited about this school year, I have a 15 and 11-year-old myself,” said Philip Chan, a consultant medical director at the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“We have been living with COVID for over two years, we know what to do,” he continued. “I just want kids to get back to normal. I think we all want things to get back to normal so I think some reasonable precautions , again, if you’re sick stay home, get vaccinated, and watch out for COVID symptoms.”

Many people still have questions about vaccines like, is it too late to still get one? If I’ve been vaccinated when do I need a booster? Do I need one? And do my kids need to get boosted?

Chan says the answer is complicated.

“There is a lot of guidance out there about different populations and who does what but I’m reassured if you go to the CDC website or DOH website there is up-to-date information out there, we have boosters coming out soon around September and October, updated boosters by Pfizer and Moderna, I think we will see some updated recommendations as well,” he said.

COVID-19 has dominated headlines since March 2020 but within the last few months, monkeypox has become another healthcare topic of concern.

“Monkeypox is something to be aware of, it’s not something that is affecting the general population or kids or K-12 students at this time, but we are keeping a close eye on it,” Chan said.

Additionally, a case of polio, although very rare, was reported in an unvaccinated person in New York in July.

“It can be a very severe disease but the reassuring thing is most people are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and the very small number of people go onto develop paralytic polio and that’s where people can develop paralysis and that’s permanent,” Chan explained. “There is no treatment, so the best thing you can do against Polio is get vaccinated make sure you’re vaccinated and make sure your kids are vaccinated.”

“It’s been a long last couple of years and I think for me, it’s about treating everyone with kindness and respect and giving the kids a little bit of flexibility, and parents and teachers frankly,” he added.

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