As Pediatric COVID Cases Rise, School Administrators May Have to Change Back-to-School Plans and Protocols
As you read this, COVID-sick children are being treated in hospitals and ICU wards. There, doctors and nurses are scrambling to treat their pediatric patients, whom one doctor describes as “younger, sicker, quicker.”
As well as their hospitalization, some early studies suggest that, post-treatment, many children will continue to suffer symptoms associated with “long-COVID.” Add to this that, in addition to the coronavirus, doctors are treating children with non-COVID viruses normally seen in winter.
There’s never a good time for children to be sick, but the timing here is awful. First, in an already overburdened health system, hospitals have severe staffing and bed shortages. Second, this current COVID spike is co-occurring with back to school season.
Here are some highlights from a mid-August NBC News roundup report from four of the nation’s children’s hospitals:
Arkansas Children’s Hospital: 23 kids (ICU and ventilators)
St Louis Children’s Hospital, MO: 20 kids
Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston: 30 kids (second week of August)
Children’s Hospital, New Orleans: 13 kids. Ages range from 3-months-old to 17-years old.
Also, on August 12, the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council reported 73 confirmed children’s cases in their care, and there are no more pediatric ICU beds across their north Texas hospitals.
Across the U.S., children now represent 19% of all COVID cases, and the hospital data are not the complete picture. Many COVID-infected children are not sick enough to be hospitalized or some may be a-symptomatic, but spreading the virus.
From July 29 to August 5, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports 93,824 COVID cases, representing a 4% increase since late July.
For approximately the same time period, the CDC reports a 30% increase.
What’s Driving the Current Spike in Children’s COVID Infections?
Health experts cite four key drivers:
- The Delta variant: The Delta strain is now the dominant strain of COVID in the U.S. Delta spreads quicker and makes many patients sicker.
- Changed family behaviors: This summer, there was a feeling that “the pandemic is over,” or that families could re-engage in pre-pandemic activities—including interstate travel or large, outdoor events.
- Unvaccinated families: Most children are being infected in their homes, generally by unvaccinated parents or other family members, and one provider reported having to treat two or more siblings.
- State-level mask-wearing rules or guidelines: Currently, Texas and Florida comprise about 1/3 of all U.S. COVID cases and 40% of the hospitalizations. The governors in both states oppose universal mask rules—even as schools prepare to open.
COVID in Children: The Current and Projected Impact on Schools
Now, faced with this COVID spike, many school leaders have just two weeks to re-assess and re-pivot their back-to-school safety plans.
In some U.S. counties, back-to-school has already happened—with mixed results. In one Arkansas school district, during the first few days of the school year, 800 students, educators and staff were quarantined. In Mississippi, some school districts had 1,000 children and 300 teachers and staff test positive for COVID 19. Last week, 4,400 Mississippi students were forced to quarantine. In Palm Beach County Florida, 440 students are quarantined after 51 students and eight faculty had confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, the CDC’s ensemble forecasts estimate that COVID hospitalizations could reach 33,000 by Labor Day. Or 630,000 – 662,000 deaths by September 14 (adult and pediatric). Also, there is no definite date by which FDA-approved children’s vaccines will be available.
What Can School Systems and Workplaces Do Now?
Unpredictable as all this seems, health experts assert that, as parents and school leaders, we have some controls.
First, the Child Mind Institute and other nonprofit organizations provide no-cost school-return tips and resources for parents, teachers and children. Second, Mental Health America provides a back-to-school kit and recommends that, if anxious, parents should contact the school district to ask about their current and planned protocols.
Also, in a recent a TV interview, our top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “predictions really can be modified by what you do in response to them.”
At the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the best way to keep schools safe is to increase the (eligible) vaccination rate and to “follow the mitigation strategies in our school guidance.”
Some of those mitigation strategies can include proactive and reliable disease detection. In the event of a positive case, schools should provide rapid and accurate testing, followed by data-informed quarantine mandates and case reportage.
Opteev’s BioViral Prevention Plan: Peace of Mind for Schools and Workplaces
As part of its BioViral Prevention plan, Baltimore-based Opteev Technologies has developed two portable and affordable devices to support accurate detection, testing, and HIPAA-compliant data reporting for schools and other organizations.
FeverWarn is a fast, high-accuracy temperature scanner that measures core body temperatures and reports real-time alerts so that schools can act quickly.
Based on patented bio-sensing technology, ViraWarn is an affordable plug-in device to protect schools, workplaces and other public-access spaces by detecting and alerting of airborne coronaviruses (think smoke detector but for COVID-19, including all COVID variants). Opteev will be launching ViraWarn in mid-September and models will start at $459.
Watch this TV news report in which Conrad Bessemer, Opteev’s chairman and co-founder, explains how ViraWarn works.
“You want to know if that room is safe or not,” says Bessemer. “You want people to feel good about returning to work. You want people to feel good about returning to school.”
Contact the Opteev sales office to discuss your needs and to learn more about Opteev’s detection and temperature-scanning products.
Email: [email protected]. Phone: +1-443-457-1370.