Children Now Play ‘Big Role’ In Spread Of COVID-19 Variant, Expert Says

New developments in the COVID-19 pandemic have a prominent epidemiologist reevaluate his own advice.

Dr. Michael Osterholm is the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He was also a member of Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board during the time between Biden’s election as president and his inauguration.

Osterholm previously supported sending children back to school. He said the virus was not a major threat to children. Now the situation has changed.

“Please understand that this B.1.1.7 variant is a completely new ball game,” Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It infects children very easily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we did not see that children under the eighth grade were infected frequently or were not very sick frequently, they were not transmitted to the rest of the community.”

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Variant B.1.1.7 was first identified in the UK. Now it is sweeping parts of the country.

In Minnesota, Osterholm said more than 740 schools reported cases of the variant. In Michigan, more young people end up in hospitals battling more severe symptoms than previously seen in children with COVID-19.

This is similar to what health officials have seen in other countries.

The British Medical Journal wrote two months ago that “emerging evidence from Israel and Italy (shows) that more young children are being infected with new variants of COVID-19.”

Seeing that happened in his own backyard, Osterholm is now questioning his own previous advice.

“Wherever you look and see this come up, you see that children play a very important role in transmitting this,” Osterholm said. “All the things that we had planned about children in schools with this virus are really no longer applicable. We have to look at this issue from a whole new perspective.”

The vaccines are expected to help combat variant B.1.1.7. However, Osterholm said there is simply not enough time to rely on vaccines.

“We are not going to have enough (vaccine doses) in the next 6 to 8 weeks to overcome this increase, and we will have to look for other ways to do so, just like any other country in the world that has had an increase of B.1.1. .7 has had to do “.

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More young people infected, hospitalized

The difference between the previous waves and another possible wave now is that “the most affected people now are the younger people,” emergency doctor Dr. Leana Wen told CNN on Sunday.

Older populations across the country have been prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines. More than 54% of Americans 65 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, while more than 75% of that same age group have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

But while that age group is now relatively well protected, Wen said, younger groups remain vulnerable as variant B.1.1.7 circulates. The variant is more contagious and can cause more serious illness, experts have said. Research suggests that it can also be more deadly.

“We’re seeing in places like Michigan that the people who are now hospitalized in large numbers are people in their 30s and 40s,” Wen said. “And now we are even seeing that children are also infected in greater numbers.”

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It’s not just Michigan.

“What we’re seeing are pockets of infection across the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated, and also in school-age children,” said former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. to CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“If you look at what is happening in Michigan, in Minnesota, in Massachusetts, for example, you are seeing outbreaks in schools and infections in social cohorts that have not been exposed to the virus before.”

“The infection is changing its contours in terms of who is being affected by it at the moment,” he added.

In Florida’s Orange County, officials reported late last month an increase in Covid-19 cases in the 18-25 age group.

And a third of all Covid-19 hospitalizations in the county were people under the age of 45, according to Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

New Jersey officials said last week that the variants, including the B.1.1.7 strain, were contributing to an increase in cases and hospitalizations, even in the youngest age groups.

Between the first and last week of March, there was a 31% and 48% increase in the number of hospitalizations among the age groups 20-29 and 40-49, respectively, State Health Commissioner Judy said Wednesday. Persichilli.

Meanwhile, older residents only saw single-digit percentage increases, he added.

How can we stop another wave of infections?

Despite alarming warning signs, the United States is not powerless, experts have emphasized.

Doubling down safety measures (masking, social distancing, avoiding crowds) along with quick and efficient vaccinations can help curb another rise in Covid-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Saturday.

“We say it over and over and we need local people, we need governors and mayors and others to be able to say, we are not out of this yet,” Fauci said.

“People say, ‘Well, you just want to confine us forever.’ No, this is not going to last forever because every day four million, three million people are vaccinated, they are getting closer and closer to control. “

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. he estimated Sunday that Americans need to hold out “another four to six weeks, and then we’ll be on the other side.”

“All vaccines seem to work equally well against this UK B.1.1.7 variant … so that’s really good news,” he said. “I am very confident that we will be in a really good place for the summer.”

“But if you are not vaccinated, you have to behave as if you are very vulnerable to this virus, this is not the time to get sick,” Hotez added.

The-CNN-Wire and 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company, contributed to this report.

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