Children under 12 at ‘very real risk’ of COVID infection now

Dr. Cauwels: "It's something we can see coming and something we can prevent"

Sanford chief physician Jeremy Cauwels sits with Sanford Health News in a blue and brown studio.

COVID-19 positive case numbers and hospitalizations are higher than they have been in months.

According to the latest data, still the vast majority of hospitalizations, patients in the intensive care unit and patients on ventilators have not received the vaccine.

Sanford Health leaders anticipate a peak in numbers again in late September through early October, and they’re closely monitoring health systems in the South where hundreds of children are now hospitalized with the delta variant.

“It’s like standing on a train track,” said Sanford Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels, M.D. “I know if I put my mask on or if I get my vaccine, I can keep the train from hitting me. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t turn around and yell at the other people standing on the track that they could get out of the way, and here’s how.”

Watch now: Dr. Cauwels joined Sanford Health News for a Facebook Live Q&A, Aug. 23

He said if you’re old enough to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s “absolutely” the right choice.

Back-to-school safety concerns

Children under 12 years old are at a “very real risk” of getting infected and potentially hospitalized with COVID-19 as the delta variant is more dangerous, more contagious and infecting kids at a higher rate than before, Dr. Cauwels said.

Within the last couple months, the rate of infection has more than doubled which means 9% of positive tests are in children under 12, he said.

“It’s something we can see coming and something we can prevent,” he said.

If you’re a parent wondering whether or not to mask your child in the classroom, here is Dr. Cauwels’ recommendation:

  • If your child is old enough to get the vaccine, give your child the vaccine.
  • If your child is younger than 12, or for some reason can’t have the vaccine, encourage them to wear a mask.

“Masking children under 12 — who cannot get the vaccine yet — is a good way to keep them safe, keep them in school and prevent you from having to miss work days to stay home with a sick kid,” Dr. Cauwels added.

RSV is back, cases on the rise

Speaking of sick kids, Sanford Children’s hospitals and clinics are seeing cases of COVID-19 on top of a surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this summer, which is typically a winter disease.

Learn more: Symptoms, causes and treatments for RSV in a child

“RSV and influenza were wiped out by wearing masks and physical distancing,” Dr. Cauwels said.

He says this further proves what we already know: Masks are doing their job.

“Masks help kids not infect other kids with the things they have while crawling around or germs they pick up at school. It’s a way to keep them safe until the vaccine is approved for kids down to age 5.”

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Posted In Back to School, Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Immunizations

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