Pediatrician says most COVID in young kids not from schools

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Some of the biggest increases in coronavirus cases in Vermont over the past several weeks have been among young people who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. So how much of a risk is COVID to kids? Our Calvin Cutler spoke with experts.

Eighty-thousand students are back in Vermont classrooms full-time this fall, and so far the infection picture is all over the map. Some schools are reporting dozens of cases while others haven’t had a single one. Last week, Vermont reported 158 school cases, the latest in a delta surge affecting 5 to 14 years-olds.

Renee Porter’s kindergartener and second-grader go to Waterbury’s Brookside Primary School. “Things are a little more relaxed around here but it still feels like they’re doing a good job keeping the kids spaced out, not being nervous. They’re taking precautions but not instilling fear into the children,” Porter said.

“The last two months have been very different than the past 12 months,” said Dr. Rebecca Yukica with Upper Valley Pediatrics in Bradford. She treats kids in Vermont and New Hampshire and says most COVID cases she’s seen are not from schools. “They’ve been fairly predictable in that they tend to happen to kids where there’s a positive in the household. We haven’t had many positives where we didn’t know where it came from.” Yukica says masks and distancing are key and that pediatric cases are far less likely to have severe outcomes.

But experts are still collecting data on so-called long hauler syndrome, which has many parents concerned. State data reflecting cases from March 5th to October 6th, shows a quarter of pediatric cases are asymptomatic. Of those that do have symptoms, 56% have a runny nose, 50% have a cough, 35% have a sore throat, 22% lose taste and smell, and 21% experience a fever. Right now, two children are hospitalized with COVID in Vermont.

Dr. Yukica says mental health struggles are some of the biggest challenges for kids. “We’re seeing so much more depression, anxiety, eating disorders since the pandemic started,” she said. She says more socialization in school is the fix.

The state is working on a streamlined testing and quarantine program but staffing issues are posing a challenge in some districts. Pfizer is in the approval process for a vaccine for kids under 12 and that could come next month. Yukica says she’s already fielding questions from parents.

Porter is preparing too. But until then, she says she’s being honest with her kids’ COVID questions. “Fingers crossed that we can keep them in school because it’s hard for them too,” she said.

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