As families get ready for in-person learning, what’s the COVID-19 risk to children? Local doctor explains

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CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KGPE) – The Central Valley, like the state, is experiencing another rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Last week, the Fresno County Department of Public Health said those under the age of 18 are going to the emergency department more so than those who are 65 and older in the county.

And at Valley Children’s Healthcare, COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits are rising.

“Our numbers here are reflecting what we’re seeing in the Central Valley in general and also in the state of California and the rest of the country,” said Dr. Nael Mhaissen, the medical director for infectious diseases and infection prevention at Valley Children’s. “Our numbers last week compared to the week prior have doubled both in the emergency department visits and also for patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 cases.”

“Obviously I don’t want to propagate fear, yes majority of children do well when they get the infection and that’s something that’s very, very fortunate to see, however, some of them get really sick and the numbers are obvious on this,” Mhaissen added.

Only children 12 years of age and older are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as of now. And Mhaissen said the children coming in are younger.

“We are seeing patients as young as 2 months, 6 months, 7 months of age with infection and without the obvious risk factors,” Mhaissen said.

With the first day of in-person learning quickly approaching for local schools, Mhaissen said it’s important safety measures are being taken.

“There is a huge value in kids being back in person in school. There’s no doubt about that, but I think the best thing to do is to take these safety measures that allow for them to return to school as safely as possible,” Mhaissen said.

Fresno Unified is following California Department of Public Health guidelines by requiring masks indoors and on the bus. Other Valley districts are following guidelines as well.

Mhaissen said in addition to mask-wearing, getting eligible kids vaccinated and ensuring parents are vaccinated will help protect students as they return to their classrooms.

“Even if they’re not doing it for themselves, they should really consider getting the immunization, at least to provide that extra layer of protection for their children as they are going back to school and potentially getting exposed more and more,” Mhaissen said. “For any child who is eligible for the vaccine, I highly urge parents to get their kids immunized if they’re eligible.

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