Doctors stress a rise in children-to-adults transmission of COVID-19 as students return to school

Coronavirus

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Triad doctors have begun to stress even more that children who are eligible to get vaccinated should as quickly as possible, as they prepare for an uptick if young people hospitalized from COVID-19.

COVID hospitalizations are increasing at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.

The number of young people under the age of 18, while low, is still higher than it was at the start of the year. 

Comparatively, Cone Health reports a low number of child patients with the virus, however, two children are in the ICU from complications of COVID-19. 

Pediatric Infectious Disease Dr. Kacy Ramirez, with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, stressed that cases in children are going to continue to go up.

“We’re seeing older children, and teens in the hospital, in particular those with those underlying or cohorting conditions. The concern right now is we’re just seeing more of it,” Ramirez said.  

At a news conference on Thursday, Ramirez and Infectious Diseases expert Dr. Christopher Ohl outlined that the upcoming school year will have some risks if students don’t get vaccinated or wear masks.

Ohl stressed that transmission to adults will become more common.

“Spring and winter we weren’t seeing child-to-adult transmissions. It was the other way around. I’m a little bit worried about it this fall in schools that make masks optional,” Ohl said.

Some school districts in the Triad have made masks optional, such as Davidson and Randolph counties. Ohl and Ramirez warn parents of children who are immunocompromised that wearing a mask would be the safest option for them. 

Ramirez’s team has found students who have asthma, are obese or have an autoimmune disorder have become sicker faster than those otherwise-healthy children. 

In healthy children, the side effects from the virus are mild but could pose problems for athletes, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, or brain fog.

“The more effective you were with COVID, the first time you had a lot of symptoms then maybe your risk of inflammation in your heat is a little higher. Their pediatrician will then decide how safe it is for them to go back into sports,” Ramirez said.

For those students who are immunocompromised, or suffer from another illness, doctors warn that there is a risk in returning to school without a mask on. 

Ramirez stressed that parents should speak with their child and pediatrician about safe mask options and ask their district or school for ways to adjust the child’s classroom. 

“Have a discussion with the school and teachers maybe about precautions and encouraging them to wear masks in the classroom. If you have windows or doors that open to the outside and you try to open them, or if you have a fan and you turn it and try and get air to circulate it through the room,” Ramirez said.

Ohl predicts the FDA will approve the use of the vaccine in children under the age of 12 between Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

While it’s still unknown how young the vaccine will be approved for, Ohl believes it will include all elementary students. 

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