Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced plans to return some California children to elementary school classrooms by February.
While vaccines have begun to be distributed to adult healthcare workers, they have not yet been authorized for younger children.
So will the school environment be safe for kids?
Since the onset of the pandemic, health officials report more than 2 million U.S. children have tested positive for COVID-19.
"It seems that for the most part they have gotten it from adults that have perhaps picked it up at work or in the outside environment and brought it home," said Dr. Daisy Dodd, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente in Orange County.
While it's less likely kids will get infected in classrooms, Dodd said work is underway to test vaccines in children 12 and older.
She said, "We anticipate that most probably we won't have solid data and be able to administer until the second quarter of next year. So pretty much this summer."
And while Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines are cleared for those 18 and older and 16 and older respectively, young adults aren't typically at high risk for severe illness. Because of this, even teens who are old enough to receive the vaccines will likely be the last to get it.
"Once we've decided to immunize the children we want to know that it is a safe vaccine to administer to them," Dodd said.
Some parents have expressed concern that the current vaccines may induce a strong immunologic response in kids. The fear is it may increase the likelihood of the very rare Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children - MIS-C.
Is that possible?
"We think not but we have to see what the studies will show," Dodd said.
For now, Dodd said the best way for families to prepare before the COVID-19 vaccine is available is to wear masks, stay apart from others.
Getting a flu shot is also recommended.
"We are seeing cases of influenza. They're beginning to come in slowly, but surely," she said. "So the last thing that we want is a child to have co-morbidity of influenza and COVID-19 infection."
Will kids and teachers be safe when they return to California schools?