Local health experts weigh in on masks and COVID risk to kids

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – As the new school year quickly approaches, local health experts say masking is still important given that many students are unvaccinated and that the delta variant is quickly spreading.

“I think that masking is important for those at-risk people in our community, and that includes children. No child less than 12 is approved to get the vaccine yet,” said Dr. Karen Dahl, a pediatric infectious disease consultant at Valley Children’s Hospital.

Per state guidance:

  • Masks are optional outdoors in K-12 schools.
  • Indoors, masks are required for K-12 students
  • Adults are required to mask when sharing indoor spaces with students
  • Schools must develop and implement local protocols to enforce requirements

This state guidance faced backlash from Clovis Unified parents at the district’s Wednesday night meeting. Parents gathered with signs at Clovis Unified protesting against masking in their schools.

Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra on Thursday during the weekly COVID-19 presser questioned why change masking requirements when masking worked well at preventing infection among school children in the spring.

“It makes sense that in light of having more kids at school and with the delta variant doing what it’s doing, that we continue doing the masking policy,” Vohra said.

As the Delta variant spreads fast, cases are rising in the Central Valley, impacting Valley Children’s Hospital.

“We are seeing an increase in cases, yes. Especially among those coming into our emergency department,” Dahl said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Dahl said they’ve had more than 100 cases of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, a condition associated with COVID-19.

“We’re very concerned about those children who have MIS-C, which often leads to hospitalization,” Dahl said.

But Dahl said aside from MIS-C, some children can require hospitalization due to COVID-19 complications, although not common.

“We’ve seen that in kids with underlying health conditions and otherwise relatively healthy, children needing hospitalization and even ICU-level care for just their COVID infection,” Dahl said.

Dahl’s message to families now is to continue being cautious for themselves and their children.

“COVID can be a serious problem for you and your children, especially if there’s someone in your household with a high-risk condition,” Dahl said. “I would definitely recommend that children continue to wear their mask indoors, and I know some parents model that behavior for their children even if they’re vaccinated by wearing a mask to make it easier for their children. That’s not a bad idea now with what we’re seeing with the delta variant and increased cases.”

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