January 18, 2021 by John Fernandez
Roundup: COVID-19 Cases in Children Up 40% in Late July; Best/Worst Face Coverings; and Vaccine Pilot Program Looms
In Late July, a 40% Increase in Children Testing Positive for COVID-19, Report Finds
More than 97,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 during the last two weeks of July, according to a new report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association.
Researchers found a 40 percent increase in coronavirus cases among children in the states and local communities that were included in the study of the two-week period. The age range for children varied widely by state, from 0-14 years of age to 0-24 years of age. Most of the new infections occurred in the U.S. South and West.
The study comes as school districts across the nation weigh the risks of resuming in-person classes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that children who get the coronavirus are less likely to have severe symptoms. The researchers in this new study agree with that assessment. Although they stress the need to continue monitoring the effects of the coronavirus on children.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” states the AAP and the Children’s Hospital Association. “However, states should continue to provide detailed reports on COVID-19 cases, testing, hospitalizations, and mortality by age so that the effects of COVID-19 on children’s health can continue to be documented and monitored.”
On August 6, the age distribution of reported COVID-19 cases was made available on health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, the researchers stated.
“While children represented only 9.1 percent of all cases in states reporting cases by age, over 380,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic,” said the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association.
Here are the Best, Worst Types of Masks to Wear to Slow COVID-19 Spread, Study Says
The worst masks — or least effective face coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — are those made from fleece. Bandanas, scarfs, and neck fleeces such as balaclavas ranked lowest in protection — although they’re better than wearing no mask at all, according to a new study.
Researchers found that a gaiter neck fleece, for example, tends to break up respiratory droplets into smaller droplets, instead of blocking them. The result: they tend to release a larger number of individual droplets into the air.
“Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive,” the researchers wrote. The Duke University study reviewed a variety of masks to see which are most effective at blocking respiratory droplets to protect wearers and the people around them.
What are the best masks to wear? The best face coverings were N95 masks without valves – the hospital-grade coverings that are used by front-line healthcare workers. Surgical or polypropylene masks also performed well.
The widely used cotton face coverings “provided good coverage, eliminating a substantial amount of the spray from normal speech,” says a summary of the study.
“This was just a demonstration – more work is required to investigate variations in masks, speakers, and how people wear them – but it demonstrates that this sort of test could easily be conducted by businesses and others that are providing masks to their employees or patrons,” said Martin Fischer, Ph.D., a chemist and physicist, with Duke University’s Department of Physics.
In a move unrelated to the Duke study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance on masks or face coverings. The CDC is urging the public not to wear masks with exhalation valves or vents because they help spread COVID-19.
The CDC states: “The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks or if they have an exhalation valve or vent.”
Florida to Take Part in U.S. Vaccine Pilot Program, State Official Says
Florida is one of four states chosen to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine pilot program under the direction of the federal government.
Florida State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees announced Florida’s role this week during a conference call with hospital officials. Florida has been invited to participate in the pilot program led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mr. Rivkees said that details about the pilot program “will be coming as vaccines become available.” He did not elaborate. The program reportedly involves setting up working groups to develop plans for the distribution of a vaccine — after one is approved by regulators.
The states selected are California, Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota, according to media reports.