A letter from Dr. Kristin Collier on the new school year

Published 8:10 am Monday, August 9, 2021

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Dear Administration, Teachers, Parents and Students:

Kristin T. Collier, MD, FACS
Chief of Staff, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center
Medical Director, Phoebe Physician Groups Outpatient Clinics Email: kcollier@phoebehealth.com

I am writing this letter as a medical professional here in Sumter County. I am also writing this letter as a concerned parent of two school aged children, one 8 year old and another 15. School for some has already started and for others will be starting over the next few weeks. The school systems are making masking optional starting out this school year. What we are seeing here locally in our community at this present time has me worried about our children going back to school. COVID numbers are back on the rise. We are seeing hospitals at capacity with no beds available locally at times, and an increasing number of patients that need to be admitted for COVID and non-COVID reasons having to be sent to other facilities sometimes 2-3 hours away . Our local pediatrician offices have seen an increase in the number of sick children with COVID, but also for non-COVID illnesses. Vaccinated individuals are getting COVID at an increasing rate, likely due to the delta variant that you have heard about on social media or on the news. We can tell you that vaccinated individuals as a whole are not getting as sick or requiring critical care services at the same rate that non-vaccinated individuals are. The children getting COVID are having symptoms. There are some long term lung/heart issues that our children and adult loved ones can suffer from as a result of getting COVID. As time passes and there is more information collected, we can have more concrete information to share on that.

We feel as your medical leadership here at Phoebe Sumter that masking is a KEY component to prevention. This is not just for our students but also for all of the staff working in our schools. If masking is optional, we fear that if children desire to wear a mask, social pressures might prevent them from doing so. Many will choose not to wear it because they don’t have to. Schools will get inundated with illness whether it is COVID, strep throat, flu, etc. Last year, with a mask requirement, there was one of the lowest flu rates we have seen in the area. This all adds up to less missed days of schools by students, improved learning IN the classroom, and overall improvement in our educational system.

With no mask requirements there is great concern that there will be school shut downs. This is the worst case scenario for our students. There is no better place for learning than in the classroom. On July 9th, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. They made multiple continued recommendations of distancing, hand washing, staying home when sick or with exposures, cleaning and disinfection that are also important.

If any of you are interested in getting the COVID vaccine we are available at anytime to discuss with you the benefits, and/or any concerns of the risks you might have. We can help you find the best place to get the vaccine as well. My teenager received her vaccination over the summer and did great.  We respect it is a personal choice for each and every one of you. Phoebe Sumter Medical Center and our Outpatient Clinics would love to help you access it if you would like. My email is listed at the end of this letter- feel free to send me any questions.

We hope school administrators will consider making masking a mandate. However, if masking is not required, we do ask you as parents and teachers to heavily consider wearing one yourself and encouraging your kids to wear them. We want to see school stay open for the entire 2021-2022 school year with as little illness from COVID in our children as possible!



Kristin T. Collier MD, FACS

Chief of Staff, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center

Medical Director, Phoebe Physician Groups Outpatient Clinics Email: kcollier@phoebehealth.com