Coronavirus And Kids: What You Need To Know

Coronavirus kids
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By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New concerns are arising as the debate over reopening schools in the fall continues.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was thought that children were essentially immune to the virus, as many seemed to exhibit no symptoms. However, by May, dozens of children in New York City had been diagnosed with a mysterious illness associated with the coronavirus, known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children.

The inflammatory syndrome is similar to Kawasaki disease; symptoms include a persistent fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, trouble breathing and confusion.

While New York City sparked worry over the disease for some weeks, updates on the mysterious illness seemed to disappear from daily coronavirus briefings after that.

Now, as the state considers bringing children back into school buildings in the fall, WCBS 880 anchor Steve Scott caught up with Dr. Christina Johns, a pediatrician and pediatric emergency physician from Maryland, for an update on what we know about kids and the coronavirus. 

Early in the pandemic, we heard that children seem to be somewhat immune from COVID-19. Is that thinking changing now?

That thinking is changing at this point, we have seen some data that suggests that some children, especially in the age group of 10 to 18 years old range, looks like they are able to transmit the virus equally to adults. And so while it does appear that the majority of children are still getting a less severe form of COVID-19, and not all children but many of them getting a less severe form, that the older kids can indeed transmit the virus without any difficulty, I'm sad to say.

I know it's become somewhat of a political issue, but as a pediatrician, are you concerned about kids going back to school for in-classroom learning in the fall?

I think that some school districts will have difficulty being able to successfully achieve the recommended safety guidelines that have been set out by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe reopening. I think that every pediatrician on the planet wants to get kids back in school. I know so many parents want to get kids back in school, but the most important thing is that we do it safely. Before we even get to safe reopening of schools, we've got to have safety in our communities, and we've got to be able to keep those case rates down in our communities before we even set about all of those guidelines for safe school reopening. So I think that there are a lot of factors at play. So I do have concerns at this point in many areas in our country.

I want to talk to you about masks and children. At what age should kids be wearing masks? How young?

Children as young as 2-years-old can successfully wear a mask. I'd like to just say that the overwhelming majority of young kids do very, very well, almost better than adults in wearing masks. Children under two should not be in a mask because that could potentially pose a suffocation risk. So older than two years old, kids can successfully be in a mask. They should be in a mask when they're out in public. Parents can make it a fun game and costume and be very successful with mask wearing.

Do you have a recommendation about what kind of masks children should wear? 

First of all, wear a mask that fits. Trying to put a large adult-size mask on the child is not going to be successful. It will keep falling off. It will be a distraction, which means that kids will actually touch the mask and their nose and mouth more frequently. So we really need to find for our kids the right fitting mask that does go around the nose and mouth, but isn't falling off, and those can be found.

That Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children that was associated with the coronavirus that was afflicting so many kids just a few months ago. We don't hear about it much anymore. Is it still around? Has that threat passed?

The threat of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children has not passed. It is still around. It tends to happen about four to six weeks or so after coronavirus infection. And so we aren't hearing about it quite as much because the hotspots that we have seen along the South, those have really heated up within about the last month or so. I would anticipate, I would guess, we will start to hear about some clusters of cases in those areas within the next month or so. We shall see. But that is why we haven't heard about it so much because we haven't seen as many clusters of cases. We're still hearing about cases. Absolutely. Are we hearing about clusters of them like we did in the New York area in April and May? Less so, and I think it's simply just a matter of the infection patterns that are happening across the nation.

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