MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WRBL) — COVID-19 cases in children in Alabama are up more than 300% compared to this time in 2020, according to data provided by Alabama’s Department of Public Health.
According to the agency, 1,831 COVID-19 cases were reported in children ages five to 17 years old between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18, 2020. In that same time a year later, 8,462 COVID-19 cases were reported, marking an uptick of 362.15% in one year.
Alabama’s Department of Public Health says this is according to the data reported to the agency’s electronic disease surveillance system and not from schools directly.
This comes as more students are returning to the classroom and many school systems have varying requirements when it comes to mask guidance, and health officials like Dr. Karen Landers with Alabama’s Department of Public Health says that’s one of the problems.
“I think we have to remember that if we don’t have universal masking, then we’re certainly going to have higher levels of COVID-19 to seize. Masks optional really does not work because you have some people being exposed, other people having less exposure, again it’s a very inconsistent application,” said Landers.
And for folks who say masks don’t work and shouldn’t be required in schools for children, Dr. Landers strongly disagrees.
“Quit arguing about the efficacy of the mask. Masks are very, very, benign, it’s probably the least noxious thing I’ve prescribed in my career as a physician, my very long career as a physician. Please wear this two or more layer, well-fitted, cloth barrier, during the time of spread of a respiratory droplet in a pandemic. We pediatricians are saying, mask work, please use them, please protect our children,” said Landers.
Landers added that the Delta Variant is unlike any other variant we’ve seen thus far in the fight against COVID-19, saying it’s more contagious, more adherent, and more infectious, and to know it’s greatly affecting children in Alabama.
“Kids absolutely can and do spread the COVID virus. They absolutely can get infected, this is something we need to remember. This is not exactly the same virus as last year. This is not our SARS-CoV-2 that we first dealt with, this is not our variant we first dealt with or a number of variants since that time,” she said.
If a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, Landers said it’s possible for them to also deal with long term complications from the virus as well.
“At least 6% of kids and possibly 10% or even more can have long COVID. Long COVID can mean brain fog, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations. We don’t have to see that in our children, we don’t want our children to have symptoms after COVID,” she said.
To keep students safe from COVID-19, Landers is encouraging all Alabamians eligible to consider the COVID-19 vaccine and for Alabama schools to consider a universal masks option.