Kids 12 and under a more vulnerable group as Warren County’s COVID numbers soar

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FILE – A student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk at the Post Road Elementary School, in White Plains, N.Y., in this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, file photo. U.S. health officials say the highly contagious delta version of the coronavirus is behind changes to mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging. CDC officials said new information about the spread of the delta variant forced them to reverse course. The agency also said teachers and students everywhere should go back to wearing masks in schools. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)

WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – For the last week, Warren County Public Health’s daily COVID-19 case reports have come with an extra detail, repeated daily.

If your child is showing any signs of illness, think twice before sending them to camp or daycare.

On Thursday, the county had 76 more cases than it did a month ago – 10 on July 5 versus 86 on Aug. 5. And the county is urging parents to keep a special eye on their younger children.

On Thursday, the county wrote that 16 coronavirus cases in the last eight days were among kids ages 12 and younger. It’s one part of many in a bloom of cases that has also included a multichurch gathering and an outbreak at a nursing home.

Earlier this week, county communications officer Don Lehman said the county hadn’t seen anything big at summer camps, but that multiple infections had been confirmed at day care programs in the county, as well as one at a summer school program and two at day camps.

The county did not disclose where those outbreaks happened.

Warren County has asked anyone with children enrolled in day care or day camp programs to keep those kids home if they show any signs of illness.

Still waiting to be vaccinated

Children ages 12 and under can’t yet be vaccinated, because the current clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines for those age groups have yet to be completed.

Dr. Kevin Grassi, a pediatrician at Glens Falls Hospital, says that’s the most important thing to consider when looking at outbreaks among younger patients.

“I think it’s important to understand that these groups are currently at risk, because there’s not a vaccine for them,” he said.

And Grassi is counting down the days until that changes; especially as another school year rounds the corner. And this one might be different.

This year, Grassi suggests that going back to school might be harder on kids if they haven’t been vaccinated, while seeing the adults around them return to normal activities.

“Frankly, the rest of the population, vaccinated folks, are getting back to normal, but kids can’t,” he said. “They’re not out of COVID yet.”

Grassi also says children are sometimes overlooked for their role in disease spread.

Children can act as easy vectors, spreading coronavirus to other groups that much quicker, something seen often in schools. If they’re the one group unvaccinated, they’re the main vehicle for the disease to reach more people.

It’s something that already happens at schools every year.

“That’s why we kind of see flu season happen the way that it does.”

Once kids can be vaccinated – either by aging up or by a vaccine for 12 and under being approved – there are ways in place to, ideally, make sure those children actually get the shot.

The process is already in place at schools, where it’s ensured students have had their shots at the beginning of a school year. Grassi suggests that adding a COVID shot to the queue would be quick and efficient.

“It might be that we wind up with a higher vaccination rate among kids, because that process of getting them vaccinated already,” he said. “Or will it be that the parents are hesitant to get their kids vaccinated?”

Grassi’s answer is that, as in most communities and demographics, there will be a bit of both. But so far, most parents who come through his practice at Glens Falls Hospital are chomping at the bit to get their kids vaccinated.

Showing signs

Like any age group, some kids who are exposed to and contract COVID-19, many of the symptoms parents can look out for are common; coughing, fever, fatigue. Lethargy and difficulty staying awake can be particularly strong indicators.

It can also vary by age. Grassi works a lot with babies, and says that children under a year old can be truly concerning cases with severe respiratory issues.

There are other symptoms being seen more frequently in kids than anywhere else.

The main one of those is multisystem inflammatory response. About 4 to 6 weeks post-infection, the response may show up as an imflammatory response severe enough to require hospitalization in some cases.

It’s rare in kids, at about one in 1,000 cases, but Grassi cites it as a concern nonetheless.

As for the question of what long-term consequences of contracting coronavirus as a kid are, the answer is the same as for anyone else.

“Right now, we don’t know,” Grassi said. “We only have a couple years or less of data. Time will play out, and we’ll see how things go.”

One thing he sees as encouraging goes back to the connection between kids and the common cold – an illness not so far from coronavirus, in a sense.

“Kids have been getting COVID in the form of colds for as long as humans have been around. We don’t really see any long-term effects from kids who have colds.”

Looking ahead, Grassi, a father himself, says he plans to get his own kids vaccinated as soon as a kid-friendly dose is available.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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