Roy Exum: "Variant" Scares Parents

Monday, July 26, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The public schools within the limits of Hamilton County (TN) will register all students on Friday, Aug. 6, and the first official school day will follow on Thursday (Aug. 12). At summer’s beginning, we thought the return might be easy. People were vaccinating and our masks were laid aside. After the last school year, which was chaos and a total disaster to any child’s development, the spring jonquils and tulips seemed to make us believe the worst was finally over.

Yet, and as if right-on-time, the savage coronavirus, now strengthened by a “delta variant,” has emerged anew across the South. 

In the last year and a half, COVID has preyed on our weak and infirm, but this new variant is different. Three times more infectious than the first disease, which changed the country as we once knew it, the delta variant focuses on the non-vaccinated Americans (the vaccine really does protect us) and, more tragically, may include children under the age of 12. There is no vaccine yet developed for our 12-under crowd. 

In the next couple of weeks, the parents and guardians of our school-aged children must make the best decisions possible … our children are our most precious asset. What is the smart thing to do?

People remember the abomination of quarantine and hate wearing masks … that's one thing. But to put your seven-year-old son on the bus in a mere two weeks is altogether another leap of faith.

Several days ago, NBC News put together a wonderful story about this …

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(NOTE: This an abridged version of a story that was aired on NBC News on July 21, 2021)
Written by Danielle Silva, NBC staff writer.

A nationwide increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, which now accounts for the vast majority of infections, worries many about the most vulnerable as restrictions are being lifted.

Among them, parents of young children who aren't yet eligible for the coronavirus vaccines wonder what the delta variant means for their families.

The delta variant now accounts for more than 83 percent of Covid-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last Monday. Just a month ago, the variant accounted for just over 30 percent of new cases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, has recommended that all children over age 2 wear masks when they return to school this year, regardless of vaccination status. That contradicted the CDC's earlier guidance, which was that fully vaccinated students didn't need masks. Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized only for people ages 12 and up in the U.S.

Here's what top pediatricians said about what families should know about the delta variant and children:

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Emergency use authorization of vaccines for children may not come until midwinter, a Food and Drug Administration official said recently.

Dr. Jim Versalovic, the pathologist-in-chief and interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, said: "This variant is spreading like wildfire. That means that we have to be extra careful among those who are unvaccinated and partially vaccinated. We're very concerned about children under 12 who have no access to the vaccine right now."

Versalovic said doctors had seen a "very dramatic shift" in the last two to three weeks to where delta is now "by far the most dominant" variant among children.

Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health, said the delta variant, while it is "certainly more contagious," doesn't appear to be more dangerous to children than other variants. As of last Thursday, more than 4 million children had been diagnosed with Covid-19, about 14.2 percent of all cases, according to the AAP. Versalovic also said, "We have no firm evidence that the disease severity in children and adolescents is any different with the delta variant."

N.J. parent: Kids should wear masks because 'they are the only ones who have not been vaccinated.'

Dr. Michael Green, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention at PMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said getting vaccinated is "the most important thing that parents can do to protect their children" from getting the coronavirus in general, including the delta variant. Parents should consider encouraging other members of their families to get vaccinated, as well, he said.

Versalovic said getting vaccinated was "the No. 1 tool in preventing and mitigating the spread and transmission of Covid, including the delta variant."

"This is a race between the vaccines and the variants," he said.

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