The delta variant changed everything for schoolchildren – Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia 2021-09-13 16:31:24 –

Photos by 5m3photos via Getty Images

Forget what you thought you knew about the Covid-19 epidemic. In contrast to all the other waves of the pandemic so far, this is spreading most rapidly among children. Like a complete storm, the onslaught of more contagious delta mutants occurred at the start of school, and the rate of new Covid infections is now rising more rapidly among school-age children than adults. increase.

“Delta variants only change this property. [pandemic]”Sara Goza, a pediatrician in Fayetteville, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says. “In the first week of August, we saw some sick children, but not many. In the next two weeks, we went into surge mode. Most of the things that came in. Was sick. “

Four Metro Atlanta counties, Cherokee, Forsyth, Henry and Paulding, have begun their school year as optional masks. (Henry then switched to Maskman Date.) Their Infection rate of school-age children (5-17) rose higher than the state average. The four major metropolitan areas of Fulton, Decalve, Gwinnett and Clayton have mask obligations. The Covid rate for school-aged children is 40% to 50% lower than the state average. (Mask options Cobb and Fayette have switched from mask options to mandates, which is about 25 percent lower than the state.)

For public health expert Harry Heymann, the masked or unmasked scenario set the unnecessary “modern Hunger Games”. This is a clash that leaves some children more vulnerable to infection. “The data showing that masks are effective in reducing infections is clear,” says Heymann, a clinical associate professor at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health.

Why masking and regular testing are important
Pinar Keskinocak, an industrial engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology, specializes in modeling the epidemic of infectious diseases, and she and her team have been analyzing SARS-CoV-2 since the outbreak of the pandemic.their Dashboard Shows that the case rate of children in the last two weeks is higher than that of adults.

The inequality is especially strong in teens between the ages of 14 and 17. In most of Georgia’s 159 counties, the prevalence of that age group is higher than that of adults aged 23-64 years. Teenage rates are Fulton, Decalve, and Gwinnett (all masks required), but these rates are twice the rates for adults aged 23-64 in these counties.

“We really need to pay attention to what’s happening to these kids,” says Professor and Director Keskinokak. Health Humanitarian System Center At Georgia Institute of Technology. “We need to ensure a safe school environment for these children, as they are the place where they spend most of their time.”

That concern was highlighted by Predictive modeling Keskinocak and her team worked with researchers at North Carolina State University. They created a simulation of a virtual school with 500 children and two or three positive cases at the beginning of the semester. They have a variety of susceptibility scenarios that correspond almost to elementary school (no children are vaccinated), junior high school (some children are vaccinated), and high school (all students are vaccinated). I used it.

Even in schools with the lowest protection from infection, the model assumes that 30 percent of children were immune from natural illness. Middle school was 40% protected and high school was set at 50%. Based on other studies, the model set the effective protection by wearing a mask to 50% and the test / quarantine to an additional 22%.

Within three months, 75% of school-sensitive students who do not perform masking and regular testing will become ill, according to a study that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. “Face coverings make a big difference,” says Keskinocak. “We can reduce 70% to 90% of people who are susceptible to infection to 25%.”

A choice between education and health?
Georgia schoolchildren are particularly vulnerable to fast-moving delta variants. “There is a correlation between the amount of Covid caught in the surrounding community and what is brought to school,” says Heiman. “Of the 159 counties, there are 159 counties with a very high risk of Covid infection.”

As of September 3, Georgia was ranked 45th in vaccination (52% of the total population with at least one vaccination) and had the sixth worst infection rate. State profile Published by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Only 40% of Georgia’s teens and early teens (ages 12-17) are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated teens (ages 12-17) are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized for severe Covid than vaccinated teens. report From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Shannon Daisen of Eastcob is at increased risk of complications because he is worried about vaccinated high school students, especially his son with Down Syndrome and other medical conditions.

When Dazen applied for a face-to-face school in May, he thought the Cobb school district needed a mask. Now she feels that parents are choosing between education and health for their children. “If people say they value their lives, not protecting their children by requiring masks is a microcosm of hypocrisy,” she says.

A majority of Cobb’s school boards have stopped efforts by one board member to put the Covid Protocol on the agenda of the August 19 meeting. It can only be added at the very end in case of an emergency, and Chairman Randy Skamihorn said, “This is not an emergency.”

However, on September 7, the Cobb Health Commission held an emergency meeting to discuss the increasing number of pediatric cases.Health Committee Encouraged public and private schools Use CDC-approved protocols, such as “use of universal masks” and vaccination of “all eligible individuals.”

Director Chris Lagsdale, a member of the Health Commission, abstained from voting. In discussions, he claimed and said that Cobb’s school contained the spread through distance, disinfection, and other means. [an educational] Specifically, the cost to mask (mandatory) elementary school children all day long. “

“Cobb’s public health protocol aims to balance the importance of face-to-face learning with the frequent changes associated with Covid-19,” a Cobb County School spokesman said in an email. “We will continue to update the school’s protocol accordingly.”

Henry County took a different approach when faced with an increasing number of pediatric cases. The district is offering a $ 1,000 bonus to fully vaccinated school staff by the end of September. A week after the school opened under the Mask Options Policy, supervisors met with local hospitals, health departments, emergency management, and county authorities and agreed to step up mitigation efforts.

Masks are now required to be worn, reducing large-scale meetings, including restrictions on direct attendance at the board of directors. (The district has reduced the number of seats for indoor events.) Based on health data, “I make a responsible decision for our youth. [so] The safest place for children to stay during class is at the Henry County School, “director Mary Elizabeth Davis said at a board meeting on August 9.

Long-term impact unknown
Beyond the emotionally noisy conversations about masks at school, Metro Atlanta pediatricians focus on treating and protecting children. Melinda Willingham, a pediatrician at InTouch Pediatrics in Snellville, says they are caring for more patients who need hospital care or have protracted effects.

One patient, a 7-year-old black boy, had a fever, cough, and runny nose for 3 days and tested positive for Covid. When he visited often about a month after he recovered, she noticed that his heart sounded abnormal. Further testing showed that he had a mild case of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. Since then, his mind has returned to normal.

“”[Pediatricians] I’m very concerned about the long-term impact of Covid and what we’ll see in the next six months or a year, “she says.

Willingham has seen children with severe inflammation caused by Covid and children who had Covid with other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus and RSV. She encourages family members to vaccinate all qualified household members (aged 12+) and tells patients why it is important to wear a mask and stay at school at a social distance.

Children and teens need to stick to these precautions for the foreseeable future. “Covid is definitely on the rise, and unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to go down anytime soon,” Willingham says.

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