Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, echoed Dr. Kline’s concern and went one step further by saying,
“… schools act as an accelerant, you should assume we’re going to see pediatric intensive care units all across the South completely overwhelmed and even a possibility of small tent cities of sick adolescents and kids.”
As both Dr. Hotez and Dr. Kline stated, the Delta variant is something different than we have ever seen before with Covid. Instead of attacking the nursing homes, Delta seems to be attacking young people and schools, and those too young to be vaccinated are especially at risk. We cannot use last year’s data that says children are not at-risk for Covid nor can we use last year’s data showing that children did not catch Covid. If you are not reading articles from July or August 2021, you are not keeping up with what is happening right now. Last year’s ideas are no longer valid for school children. Again, as Dr. Klein so clearly stated, “This is not your grandfather’s COVID….” We are fighting something completely unlike last year’s Covid, and Delta seems to be attacking young people as Covid has never attacked children before.
Earlier Post: Should Children Wear Masks All Day in School?
What Are the Facts?
No, I am not exaggerating or being overly dramatic. Let’s look at the facts.
- “The number of children contracting Covid-19 [in Florida] has increased fivefold since the end of June, with a “substantial” 84% jump in the last week alone, …. Florida currently leads the nation in kids hospitalized for Covid-19, with 32 pediatric hospitalizations per day between July 24 and 30…American Academy of Pediatrics recorded almost 72,000 new cases of Covid-19 among children from July 22-29….”
An August 9, 2021, report summarized the results for children in other states. The virus is ripping through Arkansas:
- “Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock had 23 patients under 18 admitted to its system last week. Ten were in the ICU and five were on ventilators.”
Missouri is also suffering:
- “St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri saw 13 kids come to the ER for Covid in the last week of July, and then it saw 20 who needed beds in the first week of August.”
And so is my home state of Texas:
- “At Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Covid positivity rates have risen from around 3 percent to above 10 percent among kids. The number of hospitalized children was in the single digits several weeks ago but rose to more than 30 last week.”
Louisiana is in trouble:
- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday that there are 13 children hospitalized with Covid at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, including six under the age of 2. Four children are in the ICU, including a 3-month-old boy, a 23-month-old girl, an 8-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy.
Public schools this fall are going to be a major breeding ground for the Delta variant, or as Dr. Hotez explains:
"If your adolescent kid is unvaccinated, you should assume there’s a high likelihood that that child is going to get COVID.”
Dr. Hotez continued,
“And we haven’t even gotten to the ‘long COVID’ discussion around young people and what that means for their long-term cognitive health.”
Yes, we are once again discussing whether or not we should send children to school for in class instruction. I will say that the majority of our concern is for children 12 years and under, those who are not eligible to receive a vaccine yet. You may be saying, but “children need an education.” I totally agree, but …
You can’t educate children if they’re dead.
So, what should we do?
Make Sure That You Are Vaccinated
First, anyone and everyone who is eligible for the vaccine should immediately go and be vaccinated. We should definitely have mandates for teachers, staff, students who are eligible, and everyone who walks into a school building. These mandates should require that every person eligible be vaccinated, but the vaccine may not be enough for the Delta variant. We are seeing some breakthroughs with even fully-vaccinated individuals. Therefore, we must do more to safeguard our children. Before you complain that mandatory vaccinations are contrary to personal freedoms, you should remember that we already require vaccinations for students to go to school and have for many years. Mandatory vaccinations are not unconstitutional nor do they violate anyone’s freedom.
Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today, presents a very interesting point of view on why people do not get vaccinated. She breaks down the arguments many people use for not getting vaccinated and answers them one by one. As she states, many find it hard to know who to believe and do not trust the medical experts when the internet is plastered end-to-end with incorrect information. Carroll claims the main reason the unvaccinated still refuse the vaccine is “trust.” Others have stated “fear” is the reason many refuse the vaccine. If you are still not vaccinated, I suggest you look at this article. It’s easy to read and well written.
Wear a Mask
Wearing a mask is probably the second most important safety measure that we can implement in schools, especially since the Delta variant does seem to break through the vaccine some of the time. Every single person in a school should be wearing a mask all day long. That does not include a “mask break” or an “in the office” exclusion from wearing a mask. If you are in the school building, you need to wear a mask from the minute you enter the building until the time you leave the building. Yes, I do understand that students need to take the mask off to eat lunch. I’m hopeful that we will have a vaccine for 12 years and younger before winter arrives and we must move all lunch activities indoors. For now, children can easily sit outside and eat their lunch. They probably will enjoy it more than sitting in the cafeteria during lunch time.
Project Hope, The People-to-People Health Foundation published a study by Wei Lyu and George L. Wehby from the University of Iowa that clearly demonstrated that:
“… mandating the use of face masks in public had a greater decline in daily COVID-19 growth rates after issuing these mandates compared with states that did not issue mandates …. as a result of the implementation of these mandates, more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were averted …. The findings suggest that requiring face mask use in public could help in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”
Social Distancing and Handwashing Are Also Important
Now, more than ever, we must do whatever we can to protect the children and stop the spread of the Delta variant. Wearing face masks will help, but we need more. The National Academy of Sciences recently reported a study that concluded:
“… public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high. We recommend that mask use requirements are implemented by governments, or, when governments do not, by organizations that provide public-facing services. When used in conjunction with widespread testing, contact tracing, quarantining of anyone that may be infected, hand washing, and physical distancing, face masks are a valuable tool to reduce community transmission. All of these measures, … have the potential to reduce the number of infections.”
For children 12 years and younger, mask and social distancing are about all we have to offer, unless we teach children 12 years and younger online this fall until the vaccine is available for them. Yes, I can hear people yelling we must put students back in the classroom. I, for one, prefer teaching in a group rather than teaching online. However, I have always said we must put children’s safety first. My reading clinic remains closed this fall because I work with children 12 years and younger. It is simply not safe for us to work together in a group setting; therefore, I will continue to work online. For those who claim that education losses can never be overcome, I often work with children who are three and four years behind their age level in reading. Through my reading clinic, I have brought children up four grade levels in reading in one year. Yes, we can overcome learning losses, but we cannot replace the children who die from coronavirus.
Therefore, since the vaccine and wearing a mask have been proven to help prevent Covid-19, shouldn’t you shoulder the inconvenience of wearing a mask? Help save a child’s life. Set your political beliefs aside. Get vaccinated and wear a mask—for the children.
Save the Children