There is this popular notion that covid doesn’t affect children – and my public health and epidemiologic training reminds me that on a population-level, it’s true, the majority of children who contract covid-19 will be asymptomatic or have mild disease. But I contrast this with the reality of being a clinician at the bedside of children critically ill from covid and covid-related illnesses. These two perspectives battle in my brain as I make risk assessments for my own school-aged child. One thing that terrifies me as a parent is that we can’t predict why some children get so incredibly sick from covid while others have mild disease; we don’t know why some go on to have lingering debilitation and symptoms for months, and others make quick recoveries.
What I do know is that in this moment, as the highly contagious delta variant becomes the predominant strain circulating and we enter another covid surge, I am more worried for children than I have ever been.
First and foremost, this is because the high transmissibility of the delta variant will translate into a greater number of children being exposed than before, which will lead to a greater number of children infected. Even if the delta variant is no more virulent in children than the original virus was, the sheer numbers will translate into more children being admitted to the hospital with covid and covid-related illnesses. As school reopenings coincide with the growth of the delta variant, I worry we will see large outbreaks in school settings that we didn’t see with less-contagious versions of the virus.