JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As some counties reopen schools, and others have start dates around the corner, Jacksonville-area parents have to make the difficult choice about sending their kids back on campus during the pandemic.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found there’s been a 90-percent increase in children’s known cases in the past month across the country. And many believe the virus will spread exponentially in the classroom.
“I’m happy to be back in school,” said 10-year-old Romel Petersen. “It was pretty difficult, but now it’s time to go back.”
Petersen was excited to return to his private school in Arlington and knows about safety during the pandemic. “I put on a mask, get on my hand sanitizer, wash my hands with soap and all that good stuff,” he said.
His mother, Shakima Petersen, said he’s smart about staying safe and distance learning wasn’t working out.
“Home learning, he wasn’t really getting it last year, it was a tough time,” she said.
The Petersens are not alone, as families across Florida and Georgia are making the call about going back to school this fall while coronavirus cases in kids spike.
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Figures from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association show a sizable jump in cases – 90 percent in four weeks nationwide.
In Florida, 28,281 children under age 14 have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began, 320 of them hospitalized, compared to 16,427 confirmed cases and 263 hospitalizations among children in Georgia.
The virus has killed three children in Florida and one in Georgia. Among them was 9-year-old Kymora Lynum from Putnam County, who died from the virus last month.
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Tuesday, school officials announced 900 students and staff at a north Georgia high school were in quarantine right after returning to campus.
“We have probably seen an increase in testing minors, kids in the past two weeks,” said David Mankus, the site manager for Avecina Medical’s drive thru rapid testing location in Arlington. “Approximately 10% test positive.”
Mankus said kids come through daily for tests and many are sick.
“The rate of positivity for kids, it’s really no different than adults,” said Avecina CEO and Medical Director Dr. Saman Soleymani. “They’re able to contract the virus at the same rate.”
Soleymani noted that most of the cases among children are mild, but he said the virus can easily spread to those more at risk, like parents and grandparents.
“We have many, many examples within our own practice where a child has gotten it and a few days later the parents tested positive or someone else around them tested positive,” Soleymani said.
He said while kids are often asymptomatic, it’s believed they can still carry the virus. He said the sickness can especially affect those who are immunocompromised, who have asthma or diabetes.
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