PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Almost every day, an area school announces a closure because of coronavirus.
“If there are so many cases in schools, they’re recommending shutting down anywhere from five to 14 days to just help minimize the spread,” said Dr. Michael Petrosky of Allegheny Health Network Pediatric Alliance.
State health departments have been recording higher numbers across the country in kids.
“They may continue to climb before they get better,” Dr. Petrosky said.
In the last week of October, 61,000 new cases of coronavirus were in children — the highest weekly total since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s something we were sort of expecting. Kids going back to school, weather getting colder. We all tend to be indoors more,” Dr. Petrosky said. “It’s definitely something we’re paying attention to.”
Of the nearly 900,000 kids who have tested positive, almost 200,000 were in October.
“More kids are testing positive,” says Dr. Petrosky. “It’s about being able to control those numbers as much as possible. And that’s where the school closing, reinforcing of the masking, social distancing, hand washing, and staying home when you don’t feel well.”
This could be an undercount since children are less likely to show symptoms. Only half develop a fever and cough.
“Availability for testing for asymptomatic patients has been an issue in this area, too. So we’re not able to get a true count,” Dr. Petrosky said.
And while severe illness is rare in children who do end up getting hospitalized, one in three needs intensive care. Severe cases have been more likely to be kids with chronic health conditions, such as asthma.
“My number of tests I’ve ordered has definitely gone up since school started, September, October,” Dr. Petrosky says. “I think I’ve only had three or four positive throughout all of this.”
His main worry?
“Just the kids’ ability to spread COVID with minimal to no symptoms.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is an urgent need to study the long-term effects on children — physically, emotionally and mentally.