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Pediatricians Want Kids Back In The Classroom But Warn With Delta Spreading Masks Are Needed

Two children stand side by side. They are wearing masks and backpacks.
Kelly Sikkema
Pediatricians say they're glad to see kids heading back to the classroom this fall, but they caution masks and vaccines are needed to help prevent the potentially dangerous impacts of the coronavirus delta variant.

As kids are heading back to the classroom for in-person school this year, concerns about rising pediatric coronavirus cases are growing. Doctors are urging masks and vaccines to help reduce the virus’ spread.

“We all still believe the best thing for the kids is to be in school. We are not saying don’t send the kids to school. We all want them to go to school. We don’t want them to be in virtual situations," says Dr. Nectar Aintablian, a pediatrician in Tallahassee.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says remote classes were detrimental to the mental health and education of many kids. But doctors are urging caution. Aintablian says the Delta variant of the coronavirus is highly contagious. She compares it to the flu.

“The contagiousness of influenza is if one infected person is exposing a room of patients who are not infected and are not immunized and are not wearing masks, two others will be infected from one individual. So our value for influenza is two. The Delta variant our value is seven. Seven people will get infected out of 10 uninfected people if they are exposed. It’s that contagious,” Aintablian said.

And doctors say as the Delta variant spreads, they’re seeing more intense impacts for children.

“Just in the last 2 months, we’ve seen more cases than we have in the prior five months combined. They tend to be sicker and require more help and more medial therapy," says pediatric critical care specialist Dr. Thomas Truman.

Truman says he’s also worried about the potential for more cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome that sometimes impacts kids after they recover from the coronavirus. He says it tends to show up among kids between the ages of 5 and 12. Truman says the illness impacts multiple systems, including the lungs and heart.

“That’s the most worrisome complication. We have seen some of those life-threatening infections even after the first wave. And unfortunately we anticipate to see a big spike in those cases in the next couple months as this Delta variant kind of rages through the community," Truman says.

Truman says anyone who can, should get vaccinated. But that’s not an option for all students, especially younger kids. So, he says universal masking in schools is essential.

“With the high percentage of positivity in our community, the fact that’s it’s a more virulent, more likely to make you sicker, and it’s affecting children more, I don’t know how you can make any other decision but to mask in order to keep the kids safer and physically present in school," Truman says.

Truman says other mitigation efforts, like good hand hygiene, are also an important part of reducing the spread of the virus.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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