A pediatrician associated with the Alabama Department of Public Health is growing increasingly troubled by the "significant increase" in COVID-19 cases among children.

Dr. Karen Landers took a look at the current infection rates against what was being reported this time last year, and the results are harrowing. In the first two weeks of August 2020, 1,356 children ages 5 to 17 had been infected with COVID-19.

A year later, the same date range showed 6,181 cases of COVID-19 in 5- to 17-year-olds.

“I am very concerned that the children of Alabama are experiencing more illness and hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19," Landers said in a news release from the ADPH. "Children can and do contract and spread COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 can be a very serious illness in children with at least 6 percent of children experiencing long-term consequences of this disease.

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"Further, at least 113 children in our state have suffered from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Childhood (MIS-C), a severe illness that occurs after COVID disease and affects several organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, among other body systems," Landers continued.

Currently, anyone who is at least 12 years of age can be vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer formula. The ADPH strongly recommends that anyone who can get vaccinated should do so.

Beyond vaccinations, schoolchildren should also quarantine at home for at least 10 days if they contract COVID-19. Wearing a mask in school will also help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Delta variant accounts for most of the SARS-CoV-2 cases in Alabama, based upon surveillance. Delta can replicate more quickly and infect earlier than previous SARS-CoV-2 variants. These factors are fueling the surge of COVID-19 among Alabama’s children,” said Dr. Benjamin Estrada, who is the director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

The ADPH reports that 6.2% of Alabama's reported COVID-19 cases from the past four weeks were in children ages 0 to 4, and 8.1% of those cases have been in children ages 5 to 17.

Of the children ages 5 to 17 who have been tested for COVID-19, 27% of them have yielded positive tests. This is higher than the moving seven-day state average of 23%.

Landers urges all parents and guardians to listen to and read factual information from their pediatrician or other healthcare providers, but warns:

“All Alabamians need to take the threat of this virus more seriously than ever before and implement all preventive and mitigation measures to protect the children of Alabama.”

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