PHOENIX — Coronavirus cases among the nation's youth have exploded as the delta variant tightens its grip across the United States and more and more kids return to the classroom.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association have found that kids account for nearly 15% of all newly reported COVID-19 infections nationwide through August 5.
Nearly 94,000 kids test positive
“We have a respiratory virus spreading rapidly among children as we speak,” said Phoenix Children's pediatrician Dr. Gary Kirkilas.
Cases among children have risen by 31% in just a week.
Nearly 94,000 child cases of coronavirus were recorded during that period, a 31% increase over the roughly 72,000 cases reported the week prior. In the week before that, there were 39,000 new child cases.
“We are seeing the same things that’s being mimicked across the country, unfortunately,” Kirkilas said.
As more and more kids return to Arizona classrooms, Kirkilas strongly recommends the vaccines for eligible students.
“As a pediatrician, it’s fortunate I don’t see children in wheelchairs because of polio, or measles outbreaks all because we have great vaccines that our safe and effective. The vaccine is really the only way to put this pandemic behind us,” Kirkalis said.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Duke University on one million North Carolina students found that vaccinations are the strongest tool for preventing COVID-19 among children. But children under the age of 12 are not eligible for the vaccine, leading to universal masking as the best method for protecting students.
The study found that voluntary masking is less effective and could lead to school closures and widespread community transmission.
"Think about the scenario at schools. We have multiple families, households of children all under one room, indoors. It’s the perfect setup for the virus to spread,” Kirkalis said.
As of now, mandatory masking is not possible for Arizona school districts due to Gov. Doug Ducey and the legislature's ban on mask mandates.
Kirkilas said he recommends unvaccinated students wear masks.
“For the children who are ineligible, I would continue to mask in schools," he said.
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