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To mask or not to mask? Parents debate how to approach back to school

Summer day camps could offer COVID-19 safety ideas for schools
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 18:36:41-04

CLEVELAND — You’ve probably heard about the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19. Right now, it accounts for 83% of U.S. cases, and it’s driving up the number of cases among our children, too.

It has the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending masking in schools this fall, while CDC guidance remains the same: you only need to mask up if you’re unvaccinated. So, what’s a parent to do, especially if your kids are too young to be vaccinated?

We checked with Dr. Amy Edwards, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“My guidance for parents is that masks really are best,” she advised. The doctor says the difference in recommendations comes down to a matter of approach. The CDC is backed by science, which shows as long as you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask to protect yourself. But she says the AAP is taking a more holistic approach.

“In a school setting, is it reasonable for teachers to have to figure out which students are vaccinated and unvaccinated?” Edwards said.

News 5 looked at the numbers. One saving grace of the pandemic so far has been that not nearly as many kids are getting sick, or as sick, as adults. There have been 111,418 pediatric cases in Ohioans under 18, which accounts for 10% of the 1.1 million total cases in the state. Out of all pediatric cases to date, 1,221 have been hospitalized. That’s 1.01% of pediatric cases. We’ve also seen six child deaths from COVID-19, which makes up 0.01% of pediatric cases.

Looking at our weekly averages of pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 over the past year, you can see we spiked at 33.3 cases in December of 2020 and have bottomed out so far this summer.

But, Edwards cautioned, numbers can be deceiving.

“I think we forget how bad it can be in children,” she said. “In fact, if you look at the numbers, this last year and a half has basically been the equivalent of the worst flu season you could imagine for kids that never stopped.”

She said parents need to consider the bigger picture: “The only reason it's not making the news, how bad it has been for kids, is because it’s worse for adults.”

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