A CLOSER LOOK: politics, kids, and a summer surge of COVID-19

A Closer Look

COVID-19 Vaccine. Getty Images.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The White House administration said, “the summer surge is getting the attention of vaccine-hesitant Americans as hospitals in the South are being overrun with patients.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there has been encouraging data over the last couple of weeks. “The five states with the highest case rates — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada — had a higher rate of people getting newly vaccinated compared to the national average.”

“In the past 10 days, more than 5.2 million Americans have gotten a shot,” said Psaki.

As of Tuesday, 83% of all new cases were of the Delta variant and last month it accounted for 30% of new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

ALABAMA: “Time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Friday about the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state, “it’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” According to the CDC, 39% of Alabamians are fully vaccinated — the second-lowest in the country. The state has 4.9 million residents as of the 2019 census and 3,376,543 vaccine doses have been given (1,575,798 have completed the vaccine series).

ARKANSAS: Several Democratic lawmakers and parents urged the governor and Republicans (who control the Legislature) to lift the state’s ban on schools and local governments requiring people to wear masks. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) said his focus is getting more people vaccinated versus lifting the state’s mask mandate ban. “The best tool to fight the Delta variant and have a safe school year is to increase the vaccination rate in the state,” he said in a statement issued by his Communications Director Shealyn Sowers. “I have not had any local school leaders reach out regarding an amendment to the law prohibiting mask mandates.” As of Friday, July 23, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported 40.72% of 12 and older were fully vaccinated, which represents a bit more than 1 million Arkansans.

LOUISIANA: Louisiana reported 3,127 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Friday. There are 1,008 hospitalizations, in June there were about 250. The state health department shows 36% of Louisiana’s population is fully vaccinated. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) and the  Louisiana Department of Health recommended all residents wear masks indoors due to the fourth COVID surge. The state issued the edict on Friday. “We are in a very dangerous surge right now,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “To ensure their own safety people in Louisiana should take precautions immediately. Masking and testing will limit death and suffering until we make it through this.”

“Nationally 56.3% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” per CDC.

MISSOURI: Missouri officials created a vaccine incentive program — $10,000 prizes for 900 lottery winners. In the last seven days, the state gave 77,843 vaccines, there were nearly 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths. As of Tuesday, 1,632 people are in the hospital, 492 are in the ICU, and 218 are on ventilators. In a Tweet, Mercy Hospital Springfield Chief Administrative Officer Erik Frederick said, “Younger, relatively healthy and unvaccinated. If this describes you, please consider vaccination.” Frederick said 50% of the COVID-19 patients are between the ages of 21 to 59 and 2% of that group is vaccinated.

FLORIDA: The positivity rate in Florida is 15%, and more than 73,000 new cases — about 10,000 new cases per day, according to the health department’s weekly COVID report.

There were 78 deaths on Thursday, July 22. This week Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said he’s been urging people to get vaccinated for months because of what he called the “summer season” and doesn’t favor putting a mask mandate in place because it sends a bad message about the vaccines.

CHILDREN COVID-19 DEATHS

On May 21, 2020, there were 28 cumulative COVID-19 children deaths with 38 states reporting. Fast-forward to May 20, 2021, 316 children had died from COVID-19 with 43 states reporting, and as of July 15, 2021, there were at least 346 cumulative child deaths with 49 states reporting, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) child mortality data. However, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics shows 337 deaths of children 0-17 years of age.

As of July 15, almost 4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. After decreases in weekly reported cases over the past couple of months, in July we began seeing increases in cases added to the cumulative total – over 23,500 child cases were added this week.

The age distribution of reported COVID-19 cases was provided on the health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Since the pandemic began, children represented 14.2% of total cumulated cases. For the week ending July 15, children were 15.9% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

A smaller subset of states reported on hospitalizations and mortality by age; the available data indicate that COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death is uncommon in children.

At this time, it still appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.

American Academy of Pediatrics

There are vaccine trials for children 12 and younger, but there is no set timeline for when the vaccines will be available to the age group, according to the AAP. 

In Arkansas, the child population (ages 0-17) was 700,155 as of July 15, 2021. There were 52,793 cumulative child cases, according to the AAP. COVID-19 cumulative cases of all ages were 360,258, according to the ADH. There have been a total of 6,041 COVID-19-related deaths, and 2,350 have happened from January 1, 2021, to July 23, 2021. A year ago, on this date, the ADH reported a total of 386 deaths from COVID-19.

ARKANSAS: The ADH has confirmed two children have died from COVID-19. The most recent death happened July 14 and the first death happened at the end of last year.

GEORGIA: Of the 18,632 COVID-19 deaths reported, 11 have been children, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state’s most recent child death was a five-year-old boy from northwest Georgia. He was taken to a Chattanooga, Tennessee hospital where he later died.

KANSAS: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported the deaths of two children were COVID-19-related. On July 1, 2021, the death of a one year old, who died in November, was confirmed. In February 2021 the KDHE reported the COVID-19-related death of a six year old.

MISSOURI: In November 2020, a 13-year-old boy died from the virus. He was the state’s first child under the age of 14 to die since the pandemic’s inception.

TENNESSEE: The Tennessee Health Department reports five children 11 or younger have died from COVID-19 as of July 23, 2021.

TEXAS: Thirteen children 9 years old or younger have died from COVID-19 as of January 22, 2021, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There is a combined total of 36 children in COVID-19 ICU units in Oklahoma and Mississippi, 29 and 7, respectively, as of July 23

The medical director of Pat Walker Health Center issued a statement about the COVID-19 active case increases and urged those who are on campus this fall to get vaccinated.

Unvaccinated individuals are being disproportionately impacted at staggering rates. The ADH reports the following breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in 2021:

More than 90% of current active cases are not fully immunized.

More than 99% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are not immunized.

More than 99% of those who died due to COVID-19 were not immunized.

The majority of those COVID-19 persons being hospitalized are unvaccinated persons in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This Delta variant is affecting younger people in very serious, life threatening ways and is avoidable with vaccination.

Thankfully, current vaccines remain effective against this variant, and I urge everyone who has not yet received the COVID vaccine, to get vaccinated. While not mandatory, vaccination will protect you and those members of our community with weak immune systems as well as persons not yet eligible for the vaccine, such as children 11 years old or younger. We are incredibly fortunate to have the solution to this pandemic readily available, yet our window of opportunity to control this pandemic through currently available vaccines is waning.

My concern is for the overall safety of our campus, as well as our surrounding community. If most of our campus and community members are vaccinated, we can establish a safe learning and working environment with decreased COVID-19 infections and transmission this fall semester.

The vaccine’s purpose is to help prevent illness, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 infection. The safety and success of our fall semester truly depends on the level of vaccination achieved on our campus. 

Please help keep campus safe this fall by getting your vaccine if you are not yet vaccinated.

University of Arkansas Pat Walker Health Center Medical Director Dr. Huda Sharaf, FACP

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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