HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Local health systems say there’s been a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in kids, but most of the cases are not severe.
“The majority of children don’t need to come into the hospital, they just have these mild type symptoms for a short amount of time,” said Dr. Jessica Ericson, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
As for COVID-19 variants, Dr. John Williams, Chief of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital says the B.1.1.7, also known as the “UK variant”, is becoming the dominant strain.
“We’re seeing that in lots of people of different ages,” said Williams. “We don’t have sequence data yet to prove that it’s in children but we know it’s in college-age young adults so it’s almost certainly happening in children too.”
Last week, Pfizer announced its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as age 12.
“Even though children are at low risk for severe disease, they can spread it to vulnerable family members so it will be important for children to get vaccinated once it’s available for younger kids,” said Williams.
At the same time, parents and students are eager to get back to the classrooms.
“I really think it’s going to be the best thing,” said Rachel Gilmore, mother of a 5th-grade student. “Yeah, it’s only going to be for two months but it’s the best thing that can happen because doing these online activities are not doing them any justice.”
Health experts say it’s still crucial that students follow safety guidelines like mask-wearing while in school.
“Keeping space between children is very important,” said Dr. Mark Goedecker, Vice President and Regional Medical Director of WellSpan Health. “Obviously, if you have a child that is sick, don’t send them to school.”