AURORA, Colo.– Children’s Hospital Colorado is strongly encouraging state and local officials, schools and parents to ensure their children’s safety by wearing masks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital said that since children under twelve are not eligible yet for the COVID-19 vaccine and less than 50% of Coloradan young adults have been vaccinated, it is important that “all Colorado schools and childcare settings for all children and personnel” start wearing masks.
Schools mandating masks will encourage reduce the bullying of children who elect to wear masks for their safety and for the safety of their families.
“As more adults and older children are vaccinated, and schools are eager to return to ‘normal,’ we must not forget the health and well-being of the youngest among us who are still vulnerable on numerous levels – emotionally, mentally and physically,” said Dr. David Brumbaugh, chief medical officer for Children’s Colorado. “We know masks are a proven tool in stopping the spread of respiratory viruses, which is why we are encouraging our partners and parents to help keep our kids healthy and prevent outbreaks in schools.”
The hospital warns of the following four factors that are compounding the current healthcare crisis:
- Delta variant: The CDC reported new data that shows that the delta variant is more infectious and significantly increases transmissibility. Children under age 12 are unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine yet, leaving them at risk for infection from the variant.
- Early start to respiratory season: Some children are already experiencing poly-viral infections such as SARS-CoV-2, RSV, parainfluenza, and other viruses together. These cases will continue to rise through the fall and winter months.
- Mental health crisis: In May, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health since more and more children began experiencing anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation and suicide ideation. Returning to school contributes significantly to stress, but a mandated mask policy could reduce those feelings and potential for school bullying
- A staffing crisis: There is a shortage of front-line clinical healthcare providers in the United States due to burnout.
Children’s Hospital Colorado said that their reports show overall inpatient volumes are starting to run over 20% higher than normal for this time of the year and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) volumes are running 60% higher than normal. Emergency departments are operating at 20% to 50% increased volumes, depending on their location within the state. Emergency visits for behavioral health crises have doubled or tripled, depending on the region during the pandemic.
“Every year, we experience an increase in patients due to behavioral health crisis and respiratory illness after school starts and again for respiratory illnesses in the winter due to respiratory season,” said Dr. Samuel Dominguez, pediatric infectious disease specialist. “Seeing increases in all these areas prior to school even starting is unprecedented.”
To prevent further hospitalization increases, Children’s Hospital Colorado experts say that parents can do the following:
- Everyone 2 years and older should wear a mask indoors to protect from COVID, RSV and other respiratory illnesses | View article
- Ensure children wash their hands thoroughly and regularly
- Stay home from work and/or school and get a COVID test if you are sick of have symptoms | View COVID testing information
- Get the COVID-19 vaccine if you or your child is eligible | View FAQs on the vaccine or schedule an appointment
“School outbreaks and closures are the worst thing we can do to kids, who need some normalcy in their school experience this year,” said Dr. Mike DiStefano, chief medical officer for Children’s Colorado’s Southern Region. “Additionally, as the pediatric safety-net hospital for a seven-state region, our hospitals have already begun to take on seriously ill children from neighboring states’ hospitals who have been experiencing these same challenges and are full.”