OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – There has been a recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in children aged 12 and under.
Local pediatrician Kristin Stuppy says that when the mask mandates disappeared, parents returned to the community without those protections. They also allowed their children to be mask-free, exposing them to a host of diseases – COVID-19 being one.
“I think there’s a big gap in the sense that kids don’t get infected, so they weren’t worried about their kids,” Stuppy said.
According to recent data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 4.3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 94,000 cases were added in the first week of August 2021 alone.
“They thought maybe they didn’t have that much of it in their noses to wear and spread. And what we’re learning is that they’re spreading it,” Stuppy said. “We didn’t see any cases for a while. I think we recently got three positive cases back in one day.”
In addition to concerns about COVID-19, Stuppy is seeing an increase in other childhood illnesses unrelated to COVID-19. This, combined with parents hesitant to test their children for the virus, makes it difficult to collect accurate data from children with COVID-19.
Symptoms of the virus may not be as extreme in children — often they show no symptoms at all. But Stuppy says that’s no reason for anyone to be wary.
“Even though they’re very mild and these aren’t things that send them to the hospital, that’s just an annoyance to families, they happen day in and day out and can be really life-threatening,” Stuppy said.
Parents with children battling COVID-19 need to make sure their children stay hydrated and monitor their breathing and mental and behavioral changes.
The vaccine is still not available for the youngest population, which means that low vaccination rates and high adult positivity rates directly affect children. In turn, they affect the adults and it becomes a vicious circle.
“One of the things we can do to help protect them is make sure everyone wears a mask,” Stuppy said.
Stuppy says there are many misconceptions that masks become a barrier to children, but there is no threat to their social skills development.
“The kids had no problem seeing me, a stranger, in a mask,” Stuppy said. “And as things evolved and the kids started wearing masks in schools last fall, they seemed just fine.”
She also hopes that the vaccine will soon become accessible to all children under the age of 12.
“It’s gone through the process, then I’ll definitely recommend it,” Stuppy said.
During much of the pandemic, people thought the virus didn’t affect children as much. But Stuppy says there is still so much unknown about this virus, and she fears that COVID-19 in children today will lead to other complications for generations to come.