More kids are getting COVID at family gatherings than at school, SoCal pediatrician says

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Thursday, September 9, 2021
More kids getting COVID at family gatherings than at school, doc says
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Many school districts have been in full swing since mid-August, and recent numbers show COVID infections among children are on the rise. But local pediatricians say it has little to do with the classroom.

If you're a parent, you've likely received school alerts or emails saying there's been a COVID-positive case in your child's class. It's becoming a more common occurrence.

"Now that school is back in session, we certainly are seeing more children having COVID cases," said pediatrician John Rodarte with Huntington Health Physicians.

However, Rodarte says his young COVID patients aren't usually getting infected in schools.

"Invariably though most of that contagiousness is through family gatherings not necessarily from school itself but it has much wider consequences, because once a student is positive, it has big possibility for consequences for all the other students in the classroom," Rodarte said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 200,000 pediatric cases nationwide two weeks ago, five times higher than a month ago.

MORE | Concern growing for unvaccinated children amid COVID surge

With the delta variant fueling a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country, there is growing concern for children who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

A new study finds children are four times more likely to be hospitalized in states with low vaccination rates.

The CDC says this is proof that "cocooning" children with vaccinated people keeps them safe.

"We must come together to ensure that our children, indeed, our future, remain safe and healthy during this time," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

Another study found unvaccinated teens were hospitalized at a rate 10 times higher than their vaccinated peers, but Rodarte says even mild COVID infections can have long-term consequences.

"I have a lot of parents who say you know, I'm not too worried. My child will be fine. And there's a good chance that through the acute illness, they'll be absolutely fine. But we're looking at long COVID now, in terms of longer complications that come months down the line, like inability to concentrate, headaches," Rodarte said.

The World Health Organization says it is monitoring a new COVID variant called mu. The CDC says it's not an immediate threat here in the U.S., but experts warn more variants will come.

"We will keep going thru that scenario over and over again until we get enough of the population vaccinated. As long as the virus has the time to mutate it will keep doing so," he said.

A big concern about the mu variant is that it has many mutations on the spike protein, which may make it possible to evade current vaccines - though this is still preliminary information.

MORE | How masks impact the spread of COVID-19 in a classroom

As 56 million school children return to the classroom, the debate over masks in school rages -- along with the Delta variant.