As the resumption of in-school instruction nears, Geisinger’s lead administrator says parents and guardians must show children how to properly wear face coverings and reinforce why they’re required.

Dr. Jaewon Ryu, president and chief executive officer of Geisinger, said during his first media briefing in weeks Friday that the novel coronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, aren’t “going away anytime soon.”

Positive test results for the disease average about 25 daily over the past two weeks across the entire Geisinger system, Ryu said, up from about 16 daily over the two weeks prior. More than 70,000 tests have been administered through Geisinger since March with about 6 percent returning positive, he said.

Pennsylvania’s universal mask order requires students and teachers to wear face coverings, with exceptions, throughout the school day. Masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are the most effective ways to mitigate the spread of the virus until a vaccine is available, Ryu said.

“It’s one of the most important and impactful things you can do. It severely decreases the risk of transmission when you’re in and around environments where you may come into contact with people,” Ryu said.

Children have a lesser risk of suffering severe symptoms of COVID-19 but can transmit the virus, Ryu said. As such, the same precautions apply to children as they do adults.

Ryu likened the use of face coverings in the pandemic to the use of seat belts in automobiles in that people must adapt. He advised parents and guardians to find masks that fit their children properly and as comfortably as possible.

Geisinger advised about 40 schools and universities in their respective development of reopening plans and procedures, he said, and suggested that schools work with students, too, to get accustomed to wearing masks routinely.

“I think it’s about setting good examples for our children,” Ryu said. “Does it take a little getting used to? It absolutely does.”

Geisinger had treated, on average, up to 140 virus patients a day inside its hospitals in late April and early May, Ryu estimated. That figure presently stands at about 15 across the entire hospital network, however, it hasn’t zeroed out at any point, he said.

When the positive caseload rises, even as a “blip,” it’s predictive that hospitalizations rise in-kind, Ryu said. A look at Geisinger’s data in the weeks to come would show if that predictive theory holds.

Asked about teens and children suffering multi-system inflammatory syndrome due to COVID-19, with symptoms likened to Kawasaki disease — a rare condition in children that can cause swelling and heart problems — Ryu maintained that locally, it’s still rare. Geisinger had one such case, which Ryu discussed in the past, that ended with the young patient’s recovery and discharge.

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