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LETTER TO THE EDITOR — Dear Parents, We are writing to you today as concerned pediatricians who have worked for years to keep the children of our community happy, safe and healthy.
We hope to provide clarity to parents about the current situation of children in our community during this pandemic. The delta variant of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 virus) has a greater ability to infect younger people, including children, than the original strain, and is much more contagious. We’ve seen an increase in the number of cases among our patients, including hospitalizations of children here in St. George. We hear similar trends in their communities from our colleagues across the country.
In the state of Utah, we have had approximately 800 children hospitalized because of COVID-19, some of whom required intensive care and some of whom have developed MIS-C, a complication that affects many internal organs, especially the heart. . Across the country, we have lost about twice as many children to this virus as the number of children who succumb to the flu each year.
In light of that information, we want to counter the misconception that children don’t get COVID-19 or that the virus is not a concern for children. Although they don’t get it as often as adults, they do get it. We’ve seen it and cared for kids who have it and have complications. Some of these children had no underlying health problems.
We also want to remind parents that there is a wide spectrum of diseases and that death is not the only bad outcome. We’ve seen adolescents develop “long-term COVID” symptoms with chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, and “brain fog.” Chronic COVID symptoms can affect a child’s quality of life. Primary Children’s Hospital has communicated with us that they are starting a pulmonary COVID clinic to help children in Utah with long-term COVID.
In addition, infections in children are important because they can pass it on to their parents, older siblings, other relatives, and neighbors. We care for patients whose world has been changed by the loss of parents or grandparents.
For the reasons mentioned above, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the Utah State Board of Education have all recommended wearing universal masks for children in school. There is good science showing that a mask keeps the person wearing it from passing the virus to others and provides the wearer with some personal protection. Masks are most effective when more people wear them. If we all work together, we can keep our children and each other’s children safe.
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School is an environment where the virus can easily be passed from family to family if protective measures are not taken.
Unfortunately, the Utah state legislature passed a law in May banning schools from requiring masks as cases dwindle, without considering what could happen if we had another pandemic or an unforeseen variant like delta. This has tied the hands of our school district, who have announced that they will not require masks in school. We encourage families to still send their children to school wearing masks.
Washington County School District has reiterated the importance of isolation for COVID-positive students and quarantine for those exposed to COVID. If parents do not keep their children at home when necessary, it certainly puts other children and their families at risk. We ask parents not to send their child to school if they have cold symptoms. We’ve seen children with even mild symptoms come back positive for COVID-19, and a mild infection in one child can lead to serious illness or death in someone else. If they have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, or sore throat, get them tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible and stay home until they are negative. If they test positive, keep them at home for 10 days to avoid infecting others at school. If your child is exposed to COVID-19, quarantine them at home for 14 days unless they have been vaccinated.
As physicians, we have reviewed the studies on the COVID-19 vaccine and are confident that we can recommend it for most children ages 12 and older. As with any vaccine, drug, or other intervention, the risks must be weighed against the balance. Children are much more likely to get COVID-19 and have complications than they are to get bad side effects from the vaccine. We encourage parents to discuss their child’s vaccination with their child’s doctor.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that some people will resist masking. Some also don’t isolate when sick or even go into quarantine after coming into contact with a positive case. Therefore, vaccination is becoming the last and most important defense of parents to keep them and their families safe.
Submitted by the following Southern Utah physicians:
TIM LARSEN, MD
ELLEN ARCH, MD
RAJIV KADDU, MD
ADRIANNE WALKER-JENKINS, MD
DANIEL CANNON, MD
TAYLOR MERKLEY, MD
MICHAEL MARSDEN, DO
GARY BOSSARDT, MD
BRENDON HOLMES, DO
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