The rise in cases of Covid-19 among school students is just the beginning, Dr Erica Gastelum, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, the University of California in San Francisco, Fresno, told indica News.
“Definitely it has just started,” Dr Gastelum, who is board certified in pediatrics, told indica News over the phone. “We’re close to the peak right now, and kids are definitely getting more affected.”
Coronavirus cases in schools have double just in two weeks since reopening, and in some school districts the number has crossed 500.
“In our own ER at UCSF, the patients coming are younger and younger,” Dr Gastelum said. “They’ve shifted from being more in the middle pediatric complaints, to now being very much COVID related. It’s overwhelming.”
Schools have been saying that Covid among students is coming from the community at large.
“I don’t think that is 100% true, because it spreads from person to person, and the communities’ spread will also reflect the school spread,” she said. “And when that happens, it’s going to reflect each other. But it’s really early on in the school year to say like this is directly from student to students, but the more spread there is in the community, the more spread there’s going to be in the schools. Also, if you’re not following all the appropriate measures, then you definitely have a higher risk of getting it into schools.”
Asked about Covid symptoms in children, Dr Gastelum said the variety of symptoms is much more in them than adults. “Some only had a rash or maybe they had just
appendicitis, which is very strange, but there are hospitals studying the association between appendicitis and Covid because it’s such an inflammatory disease.”
Another condition she has seen frequently are symptoms of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a serious condition which usually happens a few months later.
“It’s a strange disease,” she said about Covid-19. “It causes a lot of inflammation, it causes changes within the blood. So, you know, doctors were seeing appendicitis cases and all these things we don’t normally see with other viruses.”
Dr Gastelum said most children showing up with Covid are from families that are not vaccinated for various reasons.
“It is frustrating when they end up in the hospital or the ICU, because that could have been prevented, right, with the vaccine,” she said.
In June, there were 4,704 confirmed COVID cases reported in California in those up to age 17. In August, 65,601 cases had been confirmed in this age group till August 21.
While hospitalizations among kids remain infrequent, even those are climbing. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that hospitalizations nationwide were at a low of 20 in mid-June, but climbed to 96 in mid-August.
Deaths of children remain rarer still. Since the pandemic began, 32 children in California have died from Covid-19 — out of some 65,000 deaths. That’s 0.05 percent of all Covid deaths in the state, while kids make up 22.5 percent of the population.
Nationwide, experts say there have been 300 to 600 child deaths since the pandemic began — a fraction of 1 percent of the total, even at the highest estimate. However, even one child dying of Covid-19 is cause for concern.
In California, the first child death was not logged until August 2020. Nine children have died in the seven weeks from July 1 to Aug. 21 —nearly one-third of the total.