From staff reports
The S.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (SC AAP), along with State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell and State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, urged parents at a press conference held Tuesday, Aug. 17, to send children to school wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
SC AAP is a network of more than 700 pediatricians of all pediatric specialties across South Carolina.
“As their pediatricians, we know that children need so many things that school offers – education and learning, socialization, mental health services and counseling, activities, nutrition and protective services,” SC APP President and physician Dr. Robert Saul said. “We saw what happened last year during the school lockdown during the height of the pandemic and we do not want to see that happen again. We want our children back in schools. However, if we want our children to stay in school, we must take measures to keep them safe and healthy.”
“When it comes to your child’s health, please do not rely on social media. Ask a healthcare expert who knows you and your child — your pediatrician,” pediatrician and past President of the SC AAP Dr. Debbie Greenhouse said.
The SC AAP continued to stress the following CDC and DHEC recommendations:
– Children younger than vaccination age should be in masks when inside and in proximity with others, including in schools and on buses.
– In a non-household group of both vaccinated and unvaccinated children (and/or adults), everyone should be masked when in close proximity for maximum protection.
– Vaccination for eligible children and adults, along with masking, greatly reduces risks of transmitting the highly contagious Delta variant.
Children aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To schedule a vaccination appointment visit scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine.
Despite public perception, anyone can be infected with COVID-19. To date, more than 4 million children and adolescents have been infected with the virus in the United States. Last week alone, positive cases in more than 92,000 children were reported in the U.S. The risk of death from COVID-19 among children is low.
However, the virus can cause serious disease and long-term adverse health effects. Thousands have been hospitalized and several hundred children have lost their lives.
“This is not an ‘old person’s disease.’ We are seeing patients of all ages,” associate professor and pediatrician Dr. Annie Andrews said.
As a parent of two children with chronic pulmonary disease, Leslie Jackson knows the reality of wearing masks to protect her children all too well.
“Medically complex families like ours know firsthand that masks are one of the best defenses for us. This is just part of our lives,” Jackson said. “But with COVID-19 it’ll take more than just masking ourselves and our children to survive this virus. We need our community to help protect us too.”
Bell, the top epidemiologist in the state, has been at the forefront of the COVID response in South Carolina since the pandemic began. That includes her work at DHEC to increase vaccination rates across the state.
“I’ve said this hundreds of times since Dec. 14 when COVID-19 vaccines first became available in South Carolina: high vaccination coverage is the only way out of this pandemic,” Bell said. “We strongly urge everyone, ages 12 and up, to get vaccinated. This prevents illness and death in those vaccinated and reduces spread to protect those who are too young to be vaccinated. We have to do more to bring this pandemic under control, and we have to do it now. The solutions are immediately within our grasp.”