We never thought we’d be here, but here we are. Most of the South is seeing COVID-19 infection surges that surpass the peaks seen last winter. It’s not a coincidence that these states also have some of the lowest vaccination rates.
While children suffered in many ways during this pandemic, their infection rates had been low. Not anymore. Last week, children accounted for 22.4% of all new weekly cases and growing at an alarming rate. In July there were 38,000 pediatric cases in a single week; by mid August that number had jumped to 180,000.
Several states in our National Network are completely overwhelmed by this pandemic. Based on the size of the population, the states with the highest daily rates of infection are Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. In these states, as well as Texas, children have been filling up pediatric ICU beds.
Further complicating this dangerous situation is the reopening of schools. Local newspaper Mississippi Today found “an 830% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in children for the first two weeks of school in 2021 compared to the first two weeks this data was reported last August.” Shockingly, Mississippi has only one pediatric hospital in the state to face this crisis.
Further undermining public safety are local government actions such as those in Texas and Florida, in which governors are opposing masking in schools, a measure along with social distancing now recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. And worse yet, some states, like Tennessee, have threatened repercussions for entities trying to educate children about the benefit of vaccines.
At Children’s Health Fund, we remain steadfast that the best way to protect children is to immunize everyone 12 and older with the COVID-19 vaccine. For the millions of children returning to school, we must do what is best to prevent them from getting sick and missing precious school days.
Our partner programs are undaunted and continue their efforts to combat this surge through education campaigns and vaccination efforts. “We’re still advocating for vaccines. We are encouraging parents to vaccinate when they bring in their children. We’ve had several vaccine drives and plan on having another one soon,” says Dr. Cynthia Cross, medical director of our partner program in Tennessee.
Your support means the world to our partner providers like Dr. Cross and the children they serve, who need strong advocates who care about their health, learning, and protection during this time of crisis.By Susan Heinlen Spalding, MD, FAAP, Senior Medical Advisor