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Illustration by Aubrey Hirsch for TIME
Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar, a short-story collection. Her stories, essays and comics have appeared in Vox, the New York Times, the Nib and elsewhere

Across the U.S. children are heading back to school, despite spiking COVID-19 cases. The emergence of the more contagious Delta variant as the most prominent virus strain in the country is causing concern for parents. Not only are they worried about the health and safety of their kids, they have been dealing with a childcare crisis for the past year and a half and now that seems unlikely to end anytime soon.

This will be the third school year affected by the pandemic, but despite the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, many schools are not putting mitigation efforts into effect and several governors have banned mask mandates. It’s our responsibility as adults to protect our kids, but record hospitalization numbers for children suggest we are already failing in this task.

Read more:

Why I’m Mandating That Austin Schools Must Be Masked When Classes Start

Schools Expected to Leave Virtual Learning Behind in the Fall, but the Delta Variant Is Forcing a Change in Plans

How Will Delta and COVID-19 Change This Back-to-School Season? Here’s What to Know

Summer Camps Across the U.S. Are Dealing With COVID-19 Outbreaks. So What Happens When School Starts?

These Mothers Wanted to Care for Their Kids and Keep Their Jobs. Now They’re Suing After Being Fired

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