The idea that kids were “immune” to COVID-19 was itself weaponized by those who have, from the beginning, sought to treat the pandemic lightly. Treating children as if they could not catch or carry the disease was a convenient position for those demanding to “reopen the schools.” The relatively low infection rate among children in the opening months of the pandemic also made studies done at schools subject to statistical noise, making them good targets for those who wanted to make claims for such disproven ideas as “masks don’t work” and “social distancing doesn’t matter.”
But as kids head back into school, the numbers are looking different. As the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports, just a week after school began, hundreds of Mississippi students have tested positive, and over 4,000 have been quarantined for possible exposure. Schools that opened their doors to in-person classes are rapidly finding themselves quickly retreating to virtual classes.
In what was the kickoff week of the 2021-22 school year for many districts, students in 38 of 43 counties reporting data to the Mississippi State Department of Health tested positive for COVID-19.
Children can carry COVID-19. Children do. Children can also get desperately sick from the disease, and what was a trickle last year is starting to seem more like a steady stream.
As WDSU reported, the chief of the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans has a clear message: “This is not your grandfather’s COVID.” In the last few weeks, Dr. Mark Kline has been “shaken” by the pediatric cases flooding into the hospital. “The positivity rate for children in our outpatient settings increased from 1% a month ago, to 7% two weeks ago, to 20% today,” said Kline.
Not only that, but of those kids testing positive, the number who are seriously ill has also been rising steeply. According to Kline, 25% of those testing positive are now being hospitalized with the same kind of symptoms seem last year in older patients including respiratory issues and low blood oxygen. Many of these children need breathing assistance, something that’s not common in pediatric hospitals. Those patients include a 3-month-old baby now on a respirator.
New Orleans is far from alone. Arkansas has recorded three deaths among children since the delta wave began. As KATV reports, not only are none of the state’s youngest residents protected, but the vaccination rate for those between 12 and 18 in the state is only 19%. The latest victim was just 11; she literally never had a chance to protect herself, and she was just one of many in recent weeks.
The AAP reports that 93,824 cases of children with COVID-19 were reported in the week ending August 5. Over the course of the pandemic, children ranged from 1.5%-3.5% of hospitalizations, but that number may also be increasing.
As Dr. Jorge Caballero reports, the rate of cases among children is extremely alarming.
Not only are children accounting for a record level of COVID-19 hospitalizations, they’ve also reached a record level of COVID-19 deaths, indicating that there really is something different about how delta affects children.
A statement from Dr. Kline sums it up best. “It is heartbreaking honestly to take care of potentially dying children,” said Kline. “All of this was likely unnecessary if we as adults did what we needed to do and get the vaccine. We could have protected these children.”