Coronavirus US: are the new variants more dangerous for children?
As the Delta variant has led to a surge in covid-19 cases, leading to historic numbers of cases in children. Are children experiencing more severe infections?
This September, cases of covid-19 have hit record levels, especially when looking at infections in children. Since the end of August, the US has confirmed over 470,000 cases in those seventeen and younger.
The majority of these cases are associated with the more contagious Delta variant which has led to a record number of child hospitalizations in some states.
However, the CDC has published research showing the increases in cases and hospitalization are concentrated in areas with low vaccination rates. The findings are evidence that the virus is not more easily transmitted to or between children, or that it leads to a more severe infection; the results mean there are more opportunities for children to get exposed in low vaccinated areas.
Texas has recorded the highest number of child deaths from covid-19, and has the second largest population of children, after California. Seventy-four children have been killed by the virus, in California that number is thirty-four, less than half. Texas has a ban on mask mandates in schools. Shortly after schools opened, the Texas Tribune reported that there "were 27,353 new positive COVID-19 cases among students in Texas public schools, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, making it the biggest one-week increase in the entire pandemic."
While all of this is tragic, it is important to remember that most children infected with covid-19, even with the Delta variant -- experience few or no symptoms.
When looking at other variants, it is too soon to tell. Scientists are hard at work trying to understand how the virus impacts children and the differences between mutations.
We know what works
But what the public health experts do know is that high levels of masking in schools help to limit exposure and infection.
In the Geneva City school district, in Alabama, the Superintendent wrote to parents about how the implementation of a mask mandate helped to lower the spread within the schools. He wrote, that about two weeks after the mask mandate was put in place they saw "an approximately 80% reduction in the number of students required to go home for close contact with a positive case...Further, the number of positive cases is down by approximately 50%.”
The district made the decision to mandate masks after having to send a quarter of students home because of a positive case or a possible exposure.
In addition, as the research from the CDC showed, vaccinations protect children. In states with higher vaccination rates, there were fewer cases in children and importantly fewer deaths. Dr. Fauci has urged parents and themselves and their children vaccination. He argues that it is the best current tool to protect younger children who are not yet able to get thier shots.