Why Vermont is now closely tracking coronavirus in kids

Published: May. 19, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
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New numbers show how many kids in Vermont have tested positive for COVID-19. Our Cat Viglienzoni explains why the health department is starting to track those more carefully.

Since COVID-19 was first detected in Vermont, the Vermont Department of Health says 28 children have gotten the virus. Only one of them has been under the age of 9 and none of them have ended up in the hospital.

Still, they say these low numbers are not an invitation to let up on safety measures.

Sara Sudol isn't one to let a beautiful weather day go to waste. The Burlington mom took her children and others from the neighborhood to Oakledge Park.

She says they've been healthy and she feels like her family is safe in Vermont.

"I hate to seem like I'm not that worried, but I'm not that worried," Sudol said.

The health department says COVID-19 still affects kids the least of any age group.

"No one was very sick. No one was in the hospital. And we had no pediatric deaths," said Breena Holmes of the Vt. Department of Health. "No clusters. These are not kids of health care workers, we've been asked that a lot. These are not kids from out of state. And these are not kids that traveled."

Many kids with the coronavirus have classic flu symptoms and loss of smell. Still, Holmes says they're starting to track pediatric COVID data more carefully. In part, because of concerning cases in New York with rare but severe inflammation in children who've had COVID.

"We have no cases in Vermont. We're tracking it very closely," Holmes said.

While the data is helpful to track COVID, there are still some unanswered questions about it. For instance, how many kids were actually tested? And what does that mean to see numbers that low if the testing has not been widespread among kids?

As we know for a lot of the pandemic so far, the testing has been focused on adults who typically see the more severe symptoms. However, at the beginning of the month, the Vermont Department of Health told pediatricians that if kids have any symptoms resembling COVID, to send them to get tested.

"One of the people with the loss of smell said I've got loss of smell," said Dr. Joe Hagan of Lakeside Pediatrics. "And we said, 'Well, you don't sound that sick, but you ought to get a COVID test.' Darned if it wasn't positive."

Hagan says one of his patients came back with a positive test. He says with more testing, it's easy to reassure worried parents who wonder if their child's symptoms could be the coronavirus. And he says they spend a lot of time educating families about why it's important to follow health department guidance.

"We are spending a lot of time talking to families about how social distancing is working," Hagan said.

Sudol says the kids have stayed as a unit through the pandemic so far. And she hopes that Vermont's numbers remain where they are.

"It's so low that hopefully when the kids go back to school, people will feel safe about that," she said.

Her youngest starts child care again on June 1.

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