Children are catching COVID-19 at an alarming rate. Reuters reports nearly 2,000 kids have been hospitalized for treatment of the coronavirus, which is reportedly a record high. The number of COVID-19 patients aged 18 to 29, 30 to 39 and 40 to 49 also reached record level highs last week as cases continue to surge due to the Delta variant.
About 2.4 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the U.S. are now children. But health experts predict that number will continue to rise with newer variants of the disease. Research has not provided a clear picture, thus far, as to whether the Delta variant causes a more severe sickness among children. And currently, kids under the age of 12 are still not eligible to take the COVID-19 vaccines.
The exact number of pediatric hospitalizations reached 1,902 on Saturday (Aug. 14), according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most,” Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN on Saturday.
Despite the frightening statistics, several states are currently battling local school districts over mask mandates for kids. School districts in Florida, Texas and Arizona have mandated that masks be worn in classrooms, although their Republican state governors have issued statewide bans on such rules. Republican governors in South Carolina, Utah, Iowa and Oklahoma have also prohibited schools from imposing mask mandates.
In an interview on CNN, the nation’s largest teachers union the National Education Association supported the idea of mandatory vaccinations for its members. NEA President Becky Pringle told CNN on Saturday that schools should be doing whatever it takes to ensure students can come back to their classrooms safely this school year.
“Our students under 12 can’t get vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” Pringle said.