Tampa Bay area doctor says kids are more susceptible to COVID-19 than originally thought

Coronavirus

The Florida Department of Health shows child COVID-19 cases rose from around 17,000 to just under 40,000 in one month

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — New data shows a surge of COVID-19 infections in children. The number of cases in the state of Florida spiked by 137 percent from July to August.

Doctors say there’s still a lot to determine when it comes to the role kids play in the transmission of the coronavirus.

Parents and teachers across Tampa Bay are doing what they can to keep kids safe as they return to schools.

Alejandro Romero has taught history for 20 years and tells 8 On Your Side that the amount of worry ahead of the new school year in unprecedented.  

“Not being able to see my kids if I get sick, not being able to go to work if I get sick,” says Romero, who has taught in the Hillsborough School District for the past two years.  

The father of two decided his daughters will stick to online learning for now.  

“We are concerned that they can get sick,” he said. 

Last week during a special Hillsborough County School Board meeting about the 2020-2021 school year, he joined other educators in the fight to push back-in person learning for 4 weeks. 

“Makes me feel very comfortable that we’re doing the right thing by our community by our students, by the parents, everyone involved,” added Romero. 

New data from the Florida Department of Health shows child COVID-19 cases rose from around 17,000 on July 9 to just under 40,000 on Aug. 9. That’s a 137 percent spike. Hospitalizations shot up by 105 percent. 

Dr. Allison Messina, Chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, says she’s not surprised by the data, citing the continuous increase in cases in all ages across the U.S since the Memorial Day holiday. She says, however, that it does change what experts originally thought about children’s ability to contract COVID-19. 

“What we’re learning is kids are more susceptible than what we originally thought of getting the virus,” she said.  

Dr. Messina say evidence shows kids usually have little to no symptoms, with the exception of those with underlying conditions. And, the mortality rate among kids infected with COVID-19 is low. 

When it comes to the role kids play in the transmission of the virus, she says there’s more to determine in order to answer that question. Dr. Messina says kids certainly have the ability to pass COVID-19 to others but how effective they are in transmitting the virus is still in question.  

“Some preliminary studies show that maybe younger children especially those under the age of 10 may not transmit it as much as older children,” she tells 8 On Your Side. 

More will be revealed when kids congregate in classrooms, she says. She advises parents to take proactive steps in modeling safe behavior including wearing masks, washing your and for 20 seconds, and being socially distant.  

“Making sure the kids know how to put on a mask to cover their nose and mouth, making sure they know how to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds,” said Dr. Messina.  

 As for Romero, he was relieved last week that Hillsborough County Schools opted to begin the first four weeks of the school year online. But a couple of days after we spoke with him, the school district backtracked its original decision and announced it will now only have one week of virtual classes before going back to in-person learning.

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