WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Doctors are seeing a big increase in COVID-19 among the younger, unvaccinated population–especially more severe cases that can put someone in the hospital.
“Those pediatric intensive care units are filling up with COVID in a way they didn’t in the prior 3 waves of disease,” said Dr. Christoph Diasio, President of the North Carolina Pediatric Society.
Health professionals are most worried about children heading back to school without mask mandates. “The delta variant piece throws a little bit more of a problem into the mix since it’s more infectious,” said Dr. Hoke Pollock, Pediatrician at Hanover Pediatrics. Cases are rising quickly, and that’s without kids back in the classrooms yet.
“That’s why we think universal masks in schools, because if one child in that classroom tests positive and doesn’t have a mask on, you’re sending everybody home,” said Dr. Diasio.
Pediatricians continue to push for those kids to wear a mask, whether they’re vaccinated or not. “If you’re gonna choose to send your children to school, they should wear a mask whether there is a mandate or not,” said Dr. Pollock. “So even in the age groups where vaccines are appropriate and can be given, we probably still need to be on our toes about this, but definitely among elementary school aged children, this is a much bigger concern.”
In the first waves of the pandemic, many, especially parents, thought that the virus wasn’t affecting the younger population, but now, that’s a thought of the past. “Saying that it didn’t affect young kids, they’re immune to it, that was not accurate. It did affect young kids. what’s different this time with Delta, is that it’s affecting far more children, it’s putting more children in the ICU,” said Dr. Diasio.
Until younger children are eligible for a vaccine, doctors want parents to protect their children by having them wear masks, among other preventative measures:
“Make sure that when they are sick that they are staying at home, taking appropriate measures to be able to get well before they re-engage in being around other people. They need to limit contact with others until they are well, except for seeing their healthcare professional if testing is warranted. They need to make sure they are washing hands, 20-30 seconds with soap and water is sufficient. you can certainly use alcohol sanitizer in a pinch if needed. Making sure that we are staying safe distances from others, even when we’re well, of 4-6 feet. And making sure that we’re wearing masks when we’re in public, particularly indoors when we’re around other people, where there’s a possibility, we can spread illness that we don’t even know we have at the time,” said Dr. Pollock.
All of these safety measures are more important now as kids head back to school. “And with coronavirus it’s more important because of how quickly it spreads, and how deadly it can be to certain groups of individuals,” said Dr. Pollock.
Health officials are urging those with young children to act now so this spread doesn’t become any more deadly than it already is. “It’s really not a rest on your laurels moment, it’s we gotta get as many people protected as we can,” said Dr. Diasio. He also added that information from research for a vaccine for those under the age of 12 should be available next month, and that will determine when a vaccine might be available for the younger population.
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