National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said on Tuesday that parents must wear face masks around their children even inside their own homes because the delta variant of COVID can affect children. He stressed that more and more children have been hospitalized for COVID in recent weeks.
"It's clear that this variant is capable of causing serious injury in children," Dr. Collins told CNN on Tuesday, as reported by Faithwire. "You have heard those stories coming out of Louisiana pediatric ICUs, where there are kids as young as a few months old who are sick from this."
"That is rare-certainly younger people are less likely to fall ill-but anyone that tried to tell you, 'You don't have to worry about it if you're a young, healthy person,' there's many counter examples all around us now," Dr. Collins, a 71 year old physician-geneticist who led the Human Genome Project, argued.
Dr. Collins advised that children under age 12 must avoid places where they could get infected with COVID and stressed the importance of mask wearing at schools and at home. He argued that parents of children who cannot yet have the COVID vaccine must be "thoughtful about this" and wear masks at home as well.
"I know that's uncomfortable. I know it seems weird, but it is the best way to protect your kids," Dr. Collins said. Up to 340 children below 17 years of age have passed away due to COVID, as per latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to WGLT, in McLean County, Illinois, children aged 18 and below make up 32% of COVID cases in the last week. This sparked Gov. JB Pritzker to order all schools in Illinois to implement a mask mandate for all students and school staff. Between July 28 to August 4, the county reported 218 COVID cases, of which 58 are kids aged 1 to 17, 3 infants under a year old, and 7 patients who are 18 years of age.
Meanwhile, a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in July reported that children who came back from camp infected with COVID, 88% of which had symptoms, infected 526 household contacts, mostly parents and siblings, Forbes reported.
The study also showed that 10% of those infected required hospitalization, which lasted for five to 11 days. The study added that while none of the household contacts passed away, many of them had underlying medical conditions that placed them at higher risk for severe COVID illness.
On Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reported a "substantial increase" in new COVID cases among children in the past week, with almost 72,000 new cases versus 39,000 cases reported in the week prior. Children used to present about 14% of total COVID cases since the pandemic began last year, a figure that has risen to 19% this year.
It's interesting to note, however, that according to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University, teachers going into classrooms to teach unmasked children "are at zero additional risk" of infection. He spoke of a particular case in Sweden where teachers, who were still unvaccinated at the time, were at low risk of getting infected as they taught kids without masks on their faces.