Back to School with COVID-19
“The COVID-19 vaccines have done an extraordinary job of stamping out disease and death. But as the hypertransmissible Delta variant hammers the United States, the greatest hardships are being taken on by the unvaccinated, a population that includes some 50 million children younger than age 12. Across the country, pediatric cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing alongside cases among unimmunized adults; child hospitalizations have now reached an all-time pandemic high.
In the last week of July, nearly 72,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in kids—almost a fifth of all total known infections in the U.S., and a rough doubling of the previous week’s stats. “It’s the biggest jump in the pandemic so far” among children, Lee Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), told me. Last week, that same statistic climbed to nearly 94,000.” – The Atlantic
COVID-19 Youth Cases Are Rising
WGEM recently reported on a House healthcare committee hearing. During the hearing, the IL’s leading epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Patrick noted that “cases of COVID for 5 to 11-year-olds went up 788% over the past month.” The 12 to 17 age range saw a 704% increase. Cases with 18 to 22-year-olds had a 1345% increase. With escalating cases, it is especially important for those that work with this community to get the vaccine. It will protect themselves, in addition to youth who are not yet eligible to receive the shot(s).
IL Mask Mandates
Across the state, the new school year will begin in just a few days. The State has taken measures to require masks for students, teachers, and staff at pre-kindergarten-12th grade schools and day cares across the state. In addition, free COVID-19 testing is available to all public schools in Illinois. Additional precautionary steps to minimize the spread of the virus are available.
Vaccine Eligibility, Hesitancy, Timelines, and Mandates
Students older than 12, teachers, and staff can take advantage of vaccine eligibility. According to The Washington Post,
“The Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds significant barriers to increasing vaccination among children ages 12 to 17, who have the lowest rates of any age group at 41 percent. Large shares of parents of unvaccinated children say they fear the long-term effects of the vaccine as well as serious side effects. Many parents who are vaccinated are still holding off on inoculating their children, the survey found. But the survey also has some cause for optimism, suggesting that more people would seek out vaccines if they were offered by a trusted source and if they realized they were free.”
According to WebMD, Dr. Anthony Fauci is hopeful that the FDA may fully approve the Pfizer vaccine. This approval could offer more credibility to those that are still waiting to receive the it. In addition, it could open the door to more vaccine mandates. In Illinois, Lurie Children’s Hospital is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, and the governor announced his intent to require all state employees working in congregate facilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by October 4. Recently, Chicago Public Schools joined a growing list of cities that will require Board of Education employees to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated CPS staff, whether due to medical or religious reasons, will be subject to regular testing for the COVID-19 virus. Chalkbeat reported on this announcement in mid-August.
Across the country, various corporations and institutions like the military announced similar mandates. Additionally, Reuters reported that the nation’s second largest teachers union has voiced support for vaccine mandates for teachers. In the same article, Dr. Fauci noted the importance of surrounding school children with vaccinated and masked people until they are eligible for the vaccine.
That timeline is still unknown. CNN reported Pfizer is enrolling over 4,000 children in various age groups. Data for the 5 – 11 age group could arrive in September. Depending on those results, Pfizer could request the FDA to authorize emergency use within the month.
“To protect kids, the AAP has championed the same layered approach that protects adults: combining masks, good ventilation, hygiene, physical distancing, access to testing, and vaccines for everyone who’s eligible. This tag-team tactic will be especially important as kids head back to school in droves this month and next, Grace Lee, a pediatrician at Stanford University, told me.” – The Atlantic
ICOY Members, don’t forget to join us for our Monthly ICOY Member Calls on the second Wednesday of each month. The August 11 call included a great discussion featuring Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness program, detailing their vaccination requirement roll-out. Suggestions on relevant topics for future meetings are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.