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Davis Journal

Doctors warn children at greater risk with Delta Variant

Aug 19, 2021 11:05AM ● By Becky Ginos

Students at Centerville Junior High wear masks during last year’s robotics competition. Schools will be starting class on Monday without a mask mandate. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

SALT LAKE CITY—As schools start back up, doctors are saying mask wearing is absolutely essential to keep kids safe as COVID cases spike.

“There’s misinformation out there about COVID and children – they do get it,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, University of Utah Health/Primary Children’s Hospital. “They can get very, very sick. The Delta Variant is a game changer. It’s twice as transmissible. It's really changed what we’re dealing with. It’s breaking records of children being diagnosed.”

It’s two and a half times the COVID cases than last year in the 5 – 12 age group and that’s all before school started, he said. “We have a severe crunch on beds. We’re at surge capacity. We’re using single rooms for two children. What happens when school starts?”

Pavia encourages universal mask wearing, distancing and better ventilation in schools and keeping kids home when they’re sick. “Schools can be safe in person but they can’t be safe without universal masking.”

Not all kids are healthy and they can’t fight off COVID, he said. “They may have cancer, diabetes, etc. Many kids who are otherwise healthy might get it from people at home.”

Flu is not nearly as transmissible, said Pavia. “The Delta Variant is estimated to be five times higher. It’s much more serious in children and we don’t have a vaccine to offer them if they’re under 12.”

Kids don’t always like wearing a mask, he said. “It’s a myth that there’s a risk to wearing masks. They don’t suffer serious language delays. There’s no serious risk to wearing a mask but there is a serious risk with this (COVID).”

Last week the Salt Lake County Council voted against the mask mandate recommended by county health director Dr. Angela Dunn. “That’s a terrible mistake,” said Pavia. “They don’t understand the science behind mask use. They need to listen to Dr. Dunn at least until we have this under control. If people overturn those recommendations and kids get sick or die they must take responsibility for that.” 

Illnesses in children went down dramatically last year, he said. “We did not see one case of RSV which is usually a winter virus. Now we’re seeing a big surge in RSV. If we continue on this same path we’ll see a significant amount of flu. The effect of two viruses could make kids even sicker.”

Pavia said they may have to cancel elective surgeries and put two to three kids in a room that’s designed for one and increase shifts to keep up. “ICU doctors and nurses are burned out. They’re at the end of their rope. We really need people to help us out here.”

The earliest a vaccine for children under 12 is November or December, he said. “But that’s just a guess. I usually try to keep emotion out of it but I feel strongly about putting our kids at risk. This is very important for anybody who cares about children.”