Story at a glance
- State data show children in Florida have a 31.1 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 infections.
- This comes as teachers and local governments deliberate on how to reopen schools in the fall.
Florida health officials have identified a troubling trend; approximately 31 percent, or one-third, of children in Florida tested for COVID-19 yield positive results, according to the Sun Sentinel.
State data indicates that out of 54,022 Florida children tested, 31.1 percent have returned positive results on average. This is higher than the statewide positivity rate, which reads in at about 11 percent.
Aside from the staggering figure indicating the transmission of the virus, health experts fear it can cause potential lifelong damage in children. Alina Alonso, the health department director of Palm Beach County, reportedly told county commissioners on Tuesday that the long-term consequences of coronavirus in children are unknown.
Alonso described X-rays that reveal damage caused to human lungs by the coronavirus, even for people without severe symptoms.
“They are seeing there is damage to the lungs in these asymptomatic children. … We don’t know how that is going to manifest a year from now or two years from now,” Alonso told reporters. “Is that child going to have chronic pulmonary problems or not?”
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Throughout the pandemic, children have largely been exempt from severe COVID-19 infections, despite the recently discovered pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome that occurred in a small number of children who were exposed to the virus. Similar to the inflammatory illness Kawasaki Disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert and guidance page for children exhibiting symptoms.
“We are learning something every day,” said Jorge Perez, who co-founded Kidz Medical Services and operates pediatric offices throughout South Florida. “We have to be knowledgeable about this and continue to monitor to see what effects it has in children.”
This comes as states determine whether in-person education will resume in the fall. Outside of potentially hazardous consequences of a coronavirus infection to children, asymptomatic carriers pose a threat to teachers and other staff, who are demographically more likely to have a severe infection.
Local outlet WPTV reports that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will be meeting with the Florida Department of Education on Wednesday to outline how schools may proceed in the upcoming academic year.
Both DeSantis and other government officials, such as Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, said public school districts have to “open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students.”
This plan has received pushback from teachers’ unions, who believe that reopening too soon will risk the health of teachers, children and parents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the issue, issuing a statement along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.”
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