To the editor: I feel that it is necessary to respond to the commentary by Meg Hansen, which was published in the Bennington Banner and the Manchester Journal in the past two weeks.
In her commentary, Ms. Hansen opines that it is both unnecessary and unfair to require children, who are currently unvaccinated, to wear masks in schools and other similar public situations which require prolonged contact with others. She states that children are resistant to COVID and are “untouched by the virus,” citing some rather outdated opinions that were based on observations made before the rise of the delta variant.
COVID-19, however, is a previously unknown pathogen and we are continuously dealing with new, often unpredictable, effects. Anyone who has been following the news in the past month is aware that the delta variant has resulted in unprecedented numbers of hospitalizations of children, including in the ICU, and, very unfortunately, some deaths of children. As of Aug. 18, about 1,200 children a day were being hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., and many hospitals are anticipating being overwhelmed as schools reopen.
Children currently make up about 2.4 percent of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. In the first week of August, children made up 15 percent of all newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19, and they appear to often get sicker than children did with the original strain.
Children are particularly susceptible to multiple inflammatory syndrome, which can be fatal. In 2019-2020, 188 children in the U.S. died from the flu. Thus far, approximately 360 children in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.
Yes, wearing masks can be annoying. But children need to wear them in prolonged public contact situations, such as school, until they can be vaccinated, in order to protect themselves. They do not need to wear them all day; they generally need not wear them during athletic activities outdoors or with their families, at home. Adults can protect themselves, and others, by getting vaccinated. We need to protect the children.
Dr. Lisa K. Catapano-Friedman,
The Memory Clinic medical director, Bennington