Pediatric COVID-19 cases are surging as millions of students head back to school. And the spike in infections is worrying health officials as some policymakers refuse to issue school mask mandates, putting children at risk of contracting an infection in the classroom.
“Kids who are of the age to mask should be masking indoors. All teachers should be masking indoors,” Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, director of Health for St. Louis, told Yahoo Finance Live.
Recent studies have proven that masking works by protecting those who wear it, as well as those in close proximity to a masked individual by reducing transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report looking at the risk infected, unmasked teachers pose to students. The findings showed that an unvaccinated elementary school teacher infected with the Delta variant, who on occasion read aloud unmasked to the class, spread the virus to half of the children in her classroom after working for just two days.
Despite studies showing the threat of unmasked teachers to students, a number of states have refused to implement mask mandates in schools, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina where infection rates have soared, straining hospital systems.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 750,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2, and for the week ending Sept. 2 a total of 252,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 — accounting for about 27% of the total cases reported, and a sixfold increase from the end of July.
As pediatric COVID-19 cases rise, more children are being hospitalized due to infection. A recent study by the CDC found that hospitalization rates among children and teenagers soared nearly fivefold from late June to mid-August.
A surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases comes as those under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. The vulnerability of this population has prompted health officials to urge caution as students return to school, advising educators to take steps to help curb the spread of the virus.
“Children who cannot get the [COVID-19] vaccine, their best chance of staying healthy is to be around other vaccinated folks… Social distancing, hand washing, adequate ventilation and those types of mitigation strategies that will help keep teachers and students safe,” said Hlatshwayo Davis. “I believe in order to stay ahead of this we need the capacity to test folks and do so rapidly. Rapid testing needs to be something that should be made available to all schools and scaled up immediately.”
Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith
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