US Coronavirus: Officials split on masking children in schools as pediatric hospitals fill up with Covid-19 patients

“The number of cases in our pediatric hospitals and our children’s hospitals is completely overwhelmed,” Marty told CNN’s Jim Sciutto Friday night.

“Our pediatricians, the nurses, the staff are exhausted and the children are suffering. And it is absolutely devastating. … Our children have been very affected. We have never seen such numbers,” she said.

Marty noted that Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami has a 116% occupancy rate for Covid-19 patients.

A wave of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, fueled by the rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, is happening in the US as millions of children return to school. It is rekindling conversations about measures to reduce transmission so that students can be safe in the classroom.

But officials at the state and local level have failed to streamline their strategy for wearing masks back to school, leading local districts to create their own rules.

In Texas, the Houston Independent School District Superintendent said he would mandate masks on student returns on Aug. 23, despite GOP Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order banning school districts and other local officials from wearing masks.

That would take effect if the school board approves it next week, HISD Superintendent Millard House said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that the move comes after local officials put the Covid-19 threat level to red.

And that threat is so intense that an 11-month-old girl with Covid-19 had to be flown from Houston to a hospital 150 miles away due to a shortage of pediatric beds in the Houston area. The baby, Ava Amira Rivera, is stable and no longer intubated.

“We haven’t seen kids piling up in the children’s ICUs in the South like we’re seeing now,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Friday.

And as Covid-19 cases mount in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last week, instructing the state’s health and education departments to draft rules that prevent the implementation of local school mask mandates. school boards considering or implementing mask mandates,” the governor’s office said, and aims to “protect the freedom of parents to choose whether their children wear masks.” Eight lawyers have filed a lawsuit against DeSantis.

On Friday, Florida’s Orange County Public Schools said it would require students to wear masks — except for students whose parents sign them out with a signed note. Employees, visitors, volunteers and parents will also be required to wear masks, the district said.

Safely returning to schools is possible if steps are taken to mitigate the impact, including wearing masks, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The places where you see children in the hospital, the places where you see images of children in the hospital, are all places where measures are not being taken to protect our children,” Walensky said Friday.

The CDC recommends that everyone — students, teachers, staff and visitors — wear masks in schools.

And while the CDC says that 50% of the total population has been fully vaccinated, children under 12 are still not vaccinated. In the meantime, health experts, including Hotez and Marty, say mitigation efforts should be implemented in schools, regardless of students’ vaccination status.

“Yes, mask mandates. I think we absolutely need vaccination mandates for our schools if we really want kids to give our best,” Hotez said.

US averages 100,000+ daily cases for the first time since February

With the highly contagious Delta strain gaining traction in the US, daily coronavirus cases are at their highest level in months.

The US averaged more than 107,140 new daily cases over a week on Friday — the first time that average had surpassed 100,000 since February, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to Johns Hopkins, the figure has generally risen since the country hit a low of 11,299 per day in 2021 on June 22.

The number of hospital admissions and deaths has also risen.

More than 63,250 Covid-19 patients were in U.S. hospitals Friday — a number that has generally risen since a low of 16,152 in 2021 on June 29, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

There have been about 497 Covid-19 deaths per day in the US in the past week – well below the country’s pandemic peak of more than 3,400 per day in mid-January, but still a 40% increase from the week-long average ago, according to Johns Hopkins.

Boosters for those with weaker immune systems may be on the horizon

People who are immunocompromised may soon hear about a possible Covid-19 vaccine booster.

A decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the booster shot could come before early September, an official with the Biden administration told CNN.

The Washington Post reported Friday that in the next two weeks, FDA officials are expected to review data on additional vaccine doses for immunocompromised people from the CDC. If the data is correct, the FDA will change the emergency authorizations of at least two Covid-19 vaccines to allow for the additional doses, The New York Times reported.

The move could affect millions of people who may not have responded adequately to the vaccine.

That includes people taking immunosuppressive drugs, some organ transplant patients, and people with certain medical conditions. Research published in JAMA Network Open estimates that 6 million people in the US are taking immunosuppressants that can interfere with the vaccine — a number the researchers believe is likely an underestimate.

The CDC warned last month that the vaccine may not be effective for immunocompromised people. The agency said these people should continue to take precautions as if they had not been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, for others, a booster shot may simply be part of the immunization completion process, not an annual requirement to revaccinate, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA.

“I don’t think we want to think that these vaccines have somehow failed us,” Marks said during a discussion hosted by the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.

Marks distinguished between two ways to consider third doses: one to help people without an effective immune response and another to address the ongoing circulation of the virus.

“There’s the third dose of vaccine as part of the pre-series for people who don’t make a good immune response — that’s kind of a third dose. And then there can be a third dose, or a booster, depending on how you look at it, that’ll are given to ensure that we have good immunity against the circulating strains of Covid-19,” said Marks. “I think we need to make sure we present this correctly.”

Hospitals Tense Amid Delta Swing

As the number of cases increases, hospitals and staff are faced with dire situations day in and day out.

In Louisiana, 2,421 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Friday, 71 more than a day earlier.

“We broke the all-time record we had in Louisiana on Tuesday, and we’ve been up every day since then. And I can tell you the indications are that we’re going to be up more than 100 for tomorrow’s report,” said Governor John Call Edwards.

Another 3,939 children have tested positive for Covid-19 in Louisiana since his last press conference Monday.

That means more than 6,000 children tested positive this week. So in light of that, and the CDC recommendations, the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the information we’ve received here from the Office of Public Health and leading Louisiana pediatricians, and frankly, as a parent, I have to ask myself — why shouldn’t we send our kids to school with masks on?” Edward wondered.

“Any holistic effort to slow the spread of the virus, which is absolutely paramount right now, in light of all the things we’re seeing in the state of Louisiana, just needs to include these young people,” Edwards added. .

Edwards said he is hopeful, as the number of individuals choosing to get their first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine has risen by more than 300% in the state in the past month.

And in Tennessee, the rise in Covid-19 is so high that Republican government Bill Lee has issued an executive order allowing hospitals to hire outside providers and allowing retired medical professionals to rejoin with ease. to the healthcare workforce. His order also increased bed capacity for Covid-19 patients.

Elizabeth Stuart, Lauren Mascarenhas, Jason Hanna, Virginia Langmaid, Rebekah Riess, Christina Maxouris, Rosa Flores, John Couwels and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

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