The U.S. hit a troubling milestone Saturday as federal data showed the most children to date hospitalized due to Covid-19.
According to Reuters, which first reported the “record high” figure:
The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the U.S. population, has caused hospitalizations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of pediatric hospitalizations to 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Children currently make up about 2.4% of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.
With schools opening for the fall semester and political fights taking place in numerous states over mask mandates for students and educational staff, the increase in hospitalizations among children is worrying to public health experts like Sally Goza, former president of the Academy of Pediatrics.
“This is not last year’s Covid,” Goza explained Saturday during an appearance on CNN. “This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most.”
NPR reported earlier this week that recent state-level data analyzed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association showed that “children accounted for roughly 15% of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending on Aug. 5. Nearly 94,000 child cases of COVID-19 were recorded during that period, a 31% increase over the roughly 72,000 cases reported a week earlier. In the week before then, there were 39,000 new child cases.”
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Stanford University, explained to NPR that because children under 12 years old still cannot receive a vaccination for Covid-19, it makes sense the number infections among children is rising even though overall children do not experience the same level of severe symptoms and rarely die from the disease.
“This virus is really tracking the unvaccinated,” said Maldonado. “Because children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated, we’re just seeing the same increase in infections in that group because [the delta variant] is so infectious.”
On Thursday of this week, the National Educations Association (NEW), one of the largest teachers unions in the U.S., endorsed the call for vaccine and testing requirements for those working in the nation’s public schools.
“As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates,” said NEA president Becky Pringle in a statement, “it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies. Appropriate employee accommodations must be provided, and paid leave and readily available sites should be available for vaccinations. Employee input, including collective bargaining where applicable, is critical.”
Pringle added that the union supported regular testing for Covid-19 “in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective.”
And appearing Saturday on CNN, Pringle stated: “Our students under 12 can’t get vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.”
This article is republished from Common Dreams under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.