WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) — Some of the biggest increases in Vermont’s coronavirus cases in recent weeks have been among youths who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. So how much risk is COVID to children? Our Calvin Cutler spoke to experts.
Eighty thousand students will be back in Vermont’s classrooms full-time this fall, and so far the infection picture is all over the map. Some schools report dozens of cases, while others have had none. Last week, Vermont reported 158 school cases, the latest in a delta wave that hit 5 to 14-year-olds.
Renee Porter’s kindergarten and second grader attend Waterbury’s Brookside Primary School. “It’s a bit more relaxed here, but it still feels like they’re doing a good job of keeping the kids at a distance and not being nervous. They take precautions but don’t instill fear in the kids,” Porter said.
“The past two months have been very different from the past 12 months,” says Dr. Rebecca Yukica of Upper Valley Pediatrics in Bradford. She treats children in Vermont and New Hampshire and says most COVID cases do not come from schools. “They’re pretty predictable because they tend to happen to kids when there’s something positive in the household. We haven’t had a lot of positive things that we didn’t know where it came from.” Yukica says masks and distancing are essential, and pediatric cases are much less likely to have serious consequences.
But experts are still collecting data on the so-called long-distance syndrome. State data from the past two weeks shows that a quarter of pediatric cases are asymptomatic. Of those who do have symptoms, 56% have a runny nose, 50% have a cough, 35% have a sore throat, 22% lose taste and smell, and 21% have a fever. Currently, two children are hospitalized with COVID in Vermont.
dr. Yukica says mental health issues are some of the biggest challenges for children. “We’re seeing so much more depression, anxiety and eating disorders since the start of the pandemic,” she said. She says more socialization at school is the solution.
The state is working on a streamlined testing and quarantine program, but staffing issues pose a challenge in some districts. Pfizer is in the approval process for a vaccine for children under 12, which could come next month. Yukica says she already answers questions from parents.
Porter is also preparing. But until then, she says she’s being honest with her kids’ COVID questions. “Fingers crossed that we can keep them in school because it’s hard for them too,” she said.
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