Tennessee health professionals discuss COVID-19 risks in kids as they head back to school

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Across the state, children’s hospitals are seeing more and more pediatric COVID-19 cases. Health experts are saying this is due to how contagious the delta variant is and how easily it can spread.

Doctors at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital said they are busier this summer than they have been in years past with COVID-19 and RSV.

With the rise in wintertime viruses happening now, plus the new COVID variant, parents should be taking extra precautions for their kids as they start the new school year.

“A lot of us have let our guards down,” East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Childs said. “We’re not staying away from crowds while the virus is coming back, we’re not masking. So when we have a more contagious variant, you’re just going to see more cases.”

As the new school year starts, parents are faced with a decision whether they should send their kids to school with or without a mask.

“They have to make that choice, but I think right now with such high transmission, we should opt to wear a mask,” Childs said.

Knox County Schools are not requiring face coverings, but schools will be required to report certain COVID statistics.

“We are going to start asking districts to provide information as they did last year,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. “Part of what we will be doing over the weekend is getting more solidification on what those specific data elements are.”

Children’s hospitals will also be required to send in weekly reports.

“We are communicating with all the hospitals in Tennessee and asking them to be entering their pediatric hospital utilization data just as we did for the adult hospitals last April or May,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee Department of Health commissioner.

Reporting data has become old hat for hospitals as the pandemic has lingered.

“We’ve been submitting that data all along,” Childs said. “It has been blended with the adult data so its not been separated out well. Now that we’re seeing more cases in kids it will be nice that it’s separated out.”

Doctors continue to say the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to get vaccinated for both adults and eligible children.

“The longer this virus is out there multiplying for all of us, the more it’s going to mutate into different variants,” Childs said.

Piercey said Tennesseans are responding to the Covid-19 Vaccine.

Total vaccinations are up 47% in the last three weeks.

East Tennessee CHildren’s Hospital said as of Aug. 6, they are reporting 6 Covid-19 cases and 11 RSV cases.

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