In your recent article, “Far more Maryland students are missing too much school,” an important topic isn’t addressed: absences due to illness. Focusing on attendance might be harming children who need to rest and recover from seasonal and other infections.

Studies show that schools ranked highest as public sources of COVID-19 exposure, and 1 in 6 children have persistent COVID symptoms for three months after infection. Most infections in children are asymptomatic, but chronic symptoms may still develop in the absence of acute symptoms. We must protect children in school settings.

Clean air, high-quality masks and encouraging staying home when sick can substantially reduce acute and chronic illness. The only way to prevent long COVID is to prevent COVID infection.

Long COVID is an umbrella term describing long-term effects after acute COVID infection. Many people with Long Covid meet the diagnostic criteria for myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME or ME/CFS), a chronic neurologic disease. No approved treatments exist for ME or long COVID.

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As a child with undiagnosed ME, I pushed through symptoms to meet attendance requirements in school. I continued this pattern in university and work settings until I became permanently disabled. I wish I had received more encouragement to rest and recover and more guidance on managing symptoms.

#MEAction Maryland is advocating for our news publications, elected officials and health department leaders to communicate the risks for long-term effects after infection. We urge you to encourage readers to rest and stay home while sick to limit spread and prevent long-term illness.

Whitney Fox, Windsor Mill

Whitney Fox is the co-chair and co-founder of the #MEAction Maryland State Chapter.

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