It’s something that longtime pediatrician Dr. J. Christopher Meriwether said that parents should be paying attention as children across the Hill Country return to class. On Monday, school reopened in Ingram and Our Lady of the Hills College Prep and Notre Dame Catholic School.
“True, kids under the age of 15, there have been very few deaths, very few seriously ill children, but if a child is admitted to the hospital — one-in-three get put in the intensive care, which is the same as adults,” said Meriwether, who started practicing in Kerrville in 1989.
There has also been a belief that children are immune to the virus, and that’s one the AAP and Merriweather dismiss.
“In fact, children who carry the virus, asymptomatic, actually have higher viral loads than most adults,” Meriwether said,
In a report from Aug. 6, the
AAP noted that the number of pediatric cases has increased by 90% over a four-week period. Nearly 180,000 children have come down with the virus from July 9 through Aug. 6.
“What we do know from these data is that, in children, deaths continue to remain much lower than in older age groups,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. “But as case counts rise across the board, that is likely to impact more children with severe illness as well. To protect everyone in our communities — children, teens, and older adults — we must follow all the public health measures that we know can contain the virus. This includes physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, washing our hands, and avoiding large gatherings.”
Meriwether said that the latest on COVID-19 children centers around vasculitis — a blood vessel inflammation, which can lead to an infection of the myocardium or muscle of the heart.
This rare illness, which can be caused by the seasonal flu, is one that has presented itself in younger people, including in
In an ESPN report, at least five athletes from the Big Ten had tested positive for myocarditis after their infection from COVID-19.
How much damage the virus can do to the heart is still being assessed by scientists.
There is also an issue with a post-infection illness called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is similar to Kawasaki’s disease, that has presented itself in some children about two weeks after a COVID-19 infection.
“We simply don’t know enough about this virus to know about its long term effects,” Meriwether said. “We really don’t know.”
That has been a difficult answer for parents who have peppered Meriwether, along with his practice partner, Michael Fontenot, about a return to school.
Meriwether is the first to admit there are plenty of challenges when it comes to school, and that some children need to get back into the classroom, but he also urges caution.
“If they have the capability to stay home for the first six weeks, I try to tell (parents) to do that,” Meriwether said.
The AAP considered the data from Texas to be incomplete because the state has only done contact tracing for about 3,000 children — ages 19 and under. Texas tracks demographic data on children from those under 1-years-old, those 1-9 and those from 10-19. Other states have differing data on how to count children, including Alabama, which lists those up to 24 years old as children.
For some researchers, physicians and scientists the initially small number of pediatric cases was attributed to one thing — schools closing in March. As some schools have started to reopen this month case numbers have started to surge, and that has drawn caution from some.
“Covid caused 338,000 diagnosed infections in kids,” former Federal Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb tweeted on Aug. 8. “Eight-six tragically died, thousands more hospitalized. To compare burden to flu, an estimated 11.3 million kids got symptomatic flu in 2018-19, 477 died. If Covid became as widespread in kids as flu, outcomes could be grim.”
The biggest challenge when it comes to school, according to Meriwether, is just how to manage the children in the classroom.
“I’m afraid the teachers are going to spend more time trying to comply with all of these rules, and the kids as well, instead of focusing on their schoolwork,” Meriwether said.