Delta variant and kids: Charlotte pediatrician says rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases is comparable to surge in January

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Right now, people age 17 or younger account for only 1 percent of hospitalizations in North Carolina, but local pediatricians are seeing a spike in children testing positive for the virus.

They are encouraging students to mask up as we head into the school year.

Several school boards have already voted to make masks optional, including in Gaston County.

“I’m scared to death they’re just going to catch it from someone and be sick themselves,” Gaston County parent Michael Littlejohn said.

He has three children in the district.

“I don’t want the government telling me what to do with my children, but in this case it makes sense, because it’s for their health and for their safety,” Littlejohn said.

A Novant Health pediatrician is discussing back-to-school masking and keeping children safe as the Delta variant increases COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Catherine Ohmstede, from Novant Health, says infections in children lag behind adults about two to four weeks, so the uptick in adult infections in the middle of July is just starting to appear in kids now.

“It’s hard to quantify exactly how many cases because this increase has happened so dramatically over the past two weeks, but what we can tell you is that the rate of increase over the past month looks very much like the January spike in terms of how quickly the caseload is going up,” she said.

Dr. Ohmstede says it’s too soon to say whether the Delta variant will make kids sicker than the original strain.

“A child may be sick for a week, have mild symptoms, and then a month later become very ill and have to be hospitalized, so it remains to be seen over the coming weeks so it remains to be seen in the coming weeks whether the Delta variant will be similar or more severe in children,” she said.

Dr. Ohmstede recommends children 12 and up get the shot, and children of all ages mask up in the classroom.

“We saw last year that wearing masks universally, there was a dramatic decrease in covid and flu in schools, so we know universal masking works,” she said.

But Littlejohn cannot guarantee that masks will be universal, so he’s on the waiting list to get his kids into virtual learning.

He is also still hoping Gaston County schools will reconsider.

“Try to respect everyone and everyone’s opinions but there comes a time to where the public good overrides our personal decisions, choices and preferences,” Littlejohn said.

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