From Baptist Health South Florida
6 min. read
This time last year, the coronavirus pandemic kept Florida’s schools closed and forced students to continue their virtual learning from home. Now, with another school year underway, COVID-19 remains an uninvited guest in classrooms across the state. And with the Delta variant leading to record-high numbers of cases and hospitalizations, experts say younger students returning to school this fall are at as much of a risk of contracting the virus as they were last year – perhaps even more so.
“The Delta variant is a game-changer because it’s so highly transmissible,” says Tina Carroll-Scott, M.D., medical director of South Miami Children’s Clinic, which is supported by South Miami Hospital. “More kids are getting infected and requiring intensive care this time. We’re even seeing infants with COVID-19.”
Dorsey Goosby, M.D., director of medical information technology for Baptist Health and a pediatric specialist for more than 40 years, echoes Dr. Carroll-Scott’s assessment. “Roughly 25 percent of all the COVID cases we’re seeing now are pediatric patients, and many of these kids are winding up on ventilators,” he says. “Pediatric hospitals everywhere are stretched to capacity.”
Complicating matters is a hesitancy among some people to get vaccinated or wear a mask, Dr. Goosby says. “Social distancing, masking and hand-washing are all helping, but the vaccines themselves have proven incredibly effective at keeping people out of the hospital,” he says.
The most important thing you can do, Dr. Goosby says, is to stay informed by getting essential information from reliable sources. “Don’t get your medical news from the TV,” he advises. “For the most accurate, up-to-date information on COVID-19, go to the CDC’s website, the Florida Department of Health or the American Academy of Pediatrics.” Or, he says, just ask your doctor or pediatrician. “They keep up with all the latest developments, and they know your or your child’s health better than anyone.”
Now that children are finally returning to the classroom and the Pfizer vaccine has received full FDA approval, Dr. Carroll-Scott says that, as adults and parents, “we have a responsibility to do the right thing” and help keep them in school. “That means getting vaccinated if you or your child are eligible, and making masking and other mitigation strategies a part of everyone’s daily routine,” she says. Dr. Carroll-Scott believes that the COVID-19 vaccines will be approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for children five to 11 years of age within a month or so, and perhaps sometime next year for children under five.
In the meantime, what steps can you take to avoid COVID-19 exposure and keep your child healthy this school year? David Mishkin, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist with Baptist Health, offers these seven simple steps for keeping COVID-19 out of the classroom:
Even if your child takes every precaution to stay safe at school, Dr. Mishkin warns, there’s still a possibility they could be exposed to another student, teacher or staff member who has COVID-19 and doesn’t even know it. If you suspect your child may have COVID, Dr. Mishkin suggests scheduling a pediatric urgent care visit through the Baptist Health Care On Demand app.
“A virtual visit with one of our physicians via Baptist Health Care On Demand is an easy and convenient way to get initial guidance on your child’s symptoms,” says Dr. Mishkin. “If those symptoms warrant further evaluation, they can refer you to a nearby Baptist Health Urgent Care or Urgent Care Express center for diagnosis and treatment.” If hospitalization is needed, he adds, younger patients are in excellent hands at Baptist Health, which partners with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for Miami-area pediatric admissions.
The best advice, according to Dr. Mishkin, is to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place. “We now have an FDA-approved vaccine,” he says. “It not only protects you against COVID-19 – including the Delta variant – it will also help keep you out of the hospital should you be one of the tiny fraction of the vaccinated population who does experience a breakthrough infection.”
Dr. Mishkin says certain segments of the population are at increased risk for either contracting or exposing others to serious illness from the coronavirus, and they should strongly consider getting the vaccine.
“If you’re a child age 12 or over; if you’re an adult who has any contact with kids, especially those under 12 who aren’t eligible for the vaccine; if you’re pregnant; or if you or anyone in your family has a compromised immune system, the time to get the vaccine is now,” Dr. Mishkin stresses. “By getting vaccinated and working together on commonsense mitigation strategies, we’ll be able to get ahead of the coronavirus and ensure that our kids can stay safe in school.”
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