Times have changed.
When we first realized we were in a pandemic, we were terrified about the potential effects of COVID-19. But as the weeks and months have passed, we have learned some very valuable lessons. Perhaps most importantly: Children are the lucky ones.
The Pediatric Landscape
The overwhelming majority of children infected with COVID-19 do just fine. What we have seen in the office is they get sick for a few days with fever, sore throat, and maybe some upper respiratory or GI symptoms. However, they get over it very quickly.
I was on a conference call with some pediatricians recently. Amongst the group we had 50,000 patients across our respective practices. Most interesting was the fact that not a single one of us had a patient that had been hospitalized because of coronavirus. The pediatric hospital volumes are still very low, and hospitalizations and ICU admissions are down in the pediatric landscape.
The Negative Impacts of Lockdown
There are outliers, of course. There have been isolated incidents where kids have died from coronavirus, most of which had separate, pre-existing medical conditions (to date there have been about 30 pediatric deaths).
The fact that there are ANY pediatric deaths is terrible. In the first half of 2019 there were approximately 2,500 teen suicides. We don’t yet know those numbers for 2020, but adolescence is a difficult stage. Not to diminish the importance of any pediatric death whatsoever, my point is that I think we are causing harm to our children by continuing this lockdown, based on what I’ve seen
What I See in My Practice
It has become more and more clear that children (particularly under age 10) are not the vector. They are not bringing coronavirus home. If an adult gets coronavirus, 95% of the time it is from another adult.
Do you know what else I am seeing? BEHAVIORAL problems amongst all age groups. This pandemic has been very hard on our children and teens. Kids are acting out, and rates of anxiety and depression are way up. Kids are feeling isolated and alone.
What Can You Do?
I encourage you to allow your kids to see friends in an APPROPRIATE manner. And by “appropriate” I mean:
- Outdoor play dates
- Masks (as much as they will wear them)
- Frequent hand washing
- Physical distancing (not social distancing)
I believe the lack of social interaction is having a negative impact on the development of our children. So, it’s important to facilitate this while doing everything possible to minimize the risk of infection.
What About School?
The question I am getting the most right now is, “Should my child go back to school?” My answer is a resounding “YES.”
I think the spring of 2020 was a disaster from an educational standpoint. Some schools did a better job than others, but it was still suboptimal in terms of quality of education.
If your school is offering in-person education, I would encourage you to participate. If your child is of daycare age, I am now fine with daycare, as well. I have definitely changed my opinion about daycare as more information has become available.
My belief is that children are fortunate and COVID-19 is not that serious for them, for the most part. This is based on what I’ve seen both in my practice and in the pediatric community at large. Children are not the vectors who bring the virus home to the family. However, children ARE having severe behavioral and mental health issues from the isolation. Therefore, kids should go back to school and daycare.
Note that all of the above goes with the understanding that the proper precautions are taken.
Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Do your part.