'A very rough fall in Seattle for pediatric patients' as delta variant spreads
The now-dominant delta variant has changed the pandemic we’ve come to know so well. Whereas kids were previously less affected by the coronavirus, they are now increasingly at risk.
This has many families wondering how they should balance their kids' childhood with protecting them from the pandemic.
“Across the country, and certainly here in Seattle, we are starting to see numbers of pediatric hospital patients go up,” Dr. Elizabeth Meade told Seattle Now.
Meade practices pediatric hospital medicine at Swedish Medical Center.
"Even though that percentage of kids with dramatic illness or serious illness is still small, the overall numbers are continuing to climb," Meade said. "We are hearing from units across the country that they are full with Covid patients. And we anticipate that this is going to be a very rough fall in Seattle for pediatric patients as well.”
Delta is a stronger variant strain than the original virus that caused the pandemic. As a result, more kids are coming down with Covid. Some are showing up in hospitals. Dr. Meade says kids are currently about 25% of new Covid cases nationwide. That is up from the 15% reported for last week.
Meade notes that during the first week in August, there were about 72,000 cases of Covid in kids. That was double the previous week, and five times the numbers for June.
"While this has traditionally been one of those rare viruses that sort of spares kids … I think that has provided us a sense of calm and protection for our kids who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. But unfortunately, as we see those numbers go up across the country, we are also seeing the numbers of pediatric patients go up."
Health officials like Dr. Meade are hoping that Covid vaccines will be approved for ages 12 and younger in the fall.
Pandemic tactics for families with kids
Summer is supposed to be a time of sleepovers and camps, waterparks and playing sports. Some kids (believe it or not) even anticipate the return of school where they can socialize with friends. The delta variant has many families wondering if they should push pause on such activities.
Dr. Meade says the best thing anyone can do is to get vaccinated if they are eligible, especially if they live in a home with ranging ages.
For most of western Washington, vaccine rates among adults are above 70%. For kids aged 12-17, the rates are between 25-45%, depending on the age, according to Dr. Meade.
"We really encourage people to (get vaccinated), especially as we head back to school very soon for many people in western Washington. They are going to be around other kids in a way they haven't been, for a duration they haven't been, in many, many months. For the kids who are eligible, that vaccine is the best things we have to protect against all the variants."
Dr. Meade says it is "critically important" for kids to go back to school. In fact, she feels that kids are better at wearing masks than adults. She favors:
- Maximizing outdoor activity, limiting indoor activity
- Increasing ventilation indoors
- Physically distance as much as possible
- Everyone wear a mask
The good thing is that airports and planes have a good track record of enforcing mask rules. Dr. Meade recommends keeping masks on while traveling, regularly washing your hands, and avoiding travel if you have any symptoms. And be more picky when it comes to which trips you take.
"Putting off things that are just for fun, and maybe can be done in a few months ... because we anticipate that vaccine (for kids) coming soon."
Wearing a mask has been a major tool in the fight against Covid. That still rings true for kids.
"They are one of the best ways we have to protect kids who aren't vaccinated..." Dr. Meade said. "When we look at the data, it suggest that proper mask wearing — covering your nose and mouth, changing to a clean mask, leaving it on — decreases that transmission risk by about 50%."
"When we layer that with other things like outdoor time, physical distancing, adults and older kids getting vaccinated, we can get that transmissibility down to a really low number."
Dyer Oxley contributed to this report.