As positive cases of COVID-19 rising, with 781 active student cases in Forsyth County Schools as of Friday, Aug. 20, Forsyth County News interviewed a local pediatrician to find out how to keep kids safe and healthy.
Dr. Susan Traxler with Cumming Pediatric Group has been practicing medicine in the north Georgia are for 14 years and was recently recognized by Atlanta Parent Magazine as one of the top “Mom Approved” pediatricians in the metro-Atlanta area.
Have you seen a rise in positive cases among children at Cumming Pediatric Group?
“At Cumming Pediatrics, we have seen a definite rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in our patients. Thankfully, many children have mild symptoms that could be mistaken for a common cold: runny nose, sore throat, mild cough, but others have more severe symptoms like fever, headache, severe cough and/or abdominal pain.
“The evidence so far does not suggest that [the Delta variant] harms kids any more than the prior variant. The difference with [the Delta variant] is that it spreads like wildfire, and that means more kids will get infected. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based on age, so we are seeing more positive tests in all ages.”
What can children 12 and older do to stay safe and mitigate risk? What can children under 12 do to stay safe and mitigate risk?
“Children aged 12 and up are eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and I strongly encourage them to do so. Regardless of vaccination status, all children and teens should practice good self-care and hand hygiene.
“Wearing a mask, while not perfect, can lessen the spread of this highly contagious virus. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Don’t share food or drinks with friends at school and, most importantly, please don’t go to school when you’re sick.”
What can parents do to help keep their kids safe at school?
“Parents’ most important role during the peak of this COVID-19 surge is to encourage their children to wear masks at school and on the bus. Children also need to be encouraged to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
“Discourage them from sharing food and drinks. Lastly, please keep your children home when they have active symptoms of illness. Forsyth County Schools are doing a great job of making online learning available during the times our children must remain at home.”
What is your opinion about children masking at school?
“Masks help. Children over the age of 2 should be wearing masks unless they have a medical exemption. Children under the age of 12 will likely not be approved for vaccination until later this year or, possibly, early 2022. As such, we have limited options for lessening the spread of illness.
“While masks alone cannot stop the spread of a virus as contagious as the Delta variant of COVID-19, they have been shown to slow down transmission of the virus. Several highly regarded studies have found that when most people in an area are wearing masks, the likelihood of contracting the virus may be decreased by over 70% in high-risk locations.
“While not going so far as to mandate masks, Forsyth County Schools [returned to encouraging masks in school on August 23.] This strategy was proven to be highly effective during the last school year, particularly in the schools where mask-wearing was modeled by the administration, teachers and staff.”
What is your opinion about the current vaccines? Would you recommend them for children over 12?
“Vaccination remains our best hope of protecting our children and slowing down this pandemic. Many parents are concerned about potential adverse effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, but the risk of significant side effects from vaccination is quite low and does not hold a candle to the risks associated with a severe COVID-19 infection.
“Just as with every medical decision doctors make, we must consider COVID-19 vaccination in the context of risk vs. benefit. When weighing the very rare, but real, risk of side effects to the vaccine against the measurable, larger benefit to ourselves and our community, getting vaccinated is an easy choice.”
What kind of tips can you offer parents that might be nervous about face-to-face instruction but can't go virtual?
“For those parents who are nervous about sending their children to school in person but for whom virtual school just isn’t a realistic option, please take heart. As a community our COVID-19 numbers are higher than ever, but children overall are still faring significantly better than adults against this virus.
“The majority of children who catch COVID-19 will have mild to moderate symptoms with only a small percentage needing hospitalization.”