For most American adults, the Covid-19 situation is less at the forefront of their lives. Vaccine shots are widely available, and once you have received yours Covid no longer needs to dominate your life. Once vaccinated a person is unlikely to contract any form of the virus and suffering serious symptoms are substantially less. Socializing resumes with or without a mask and COVID is now a flu-like concern.
The situation is more complicated for children under 12, partially because they are not eligible to receive the vaccine, and with the Delta variant increasing parents are concerned. As each new coronavirus variant surfaces, it’s possible resistance to the vaccine could create. To date in the U.S. the variants have been similar to the original version of the virus, allaying surge fears, and allowing some public-health experts to use the term “scariants.”
Delta does appear to be worse than the prior variants, but in terms of contagiousness and severity, it seems to be in the same range as the earlier ones. In this data from England, where Delta is already widespread, Covid-related hospitalizations of children have risen from their lows of a few weeks ago, but the increases are not large. “I haven’t seen data to make me particularly worried about Delta in kids,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist.
This evidence suggests that serious versions of Covid will continue to be extremely rare in children. Some common activities, and several other diseases, have caused significantly more childhood deaths than Covid has:
Infant data is similar:
Death is one outcome that causes parents concern. However, “long Covid” and hospitalization have been very rare in children. The focus on COVID has caused intense attention to the risks associated with it, even if the risks are smaller than other risks that are unthinkingly accepted.
For example, there is no phrase “long flu,” but it’s a real problem, even for children. One academic study has found that up to 10 percent of people who contract influenza later develop cardiac inflammation.
Children will face a higher risk of contracting Covid once they resume the activities they missed during the lockdown. Factually the rates of Covid transmission in the U.S. have decreased making activities safer than they were this past fall or winter.
- The interruption of school and other normal activities has caused substantial damage to children — academically, socially and psychologically. Helping children resume normal activities is important to their health. “Kids should be in camp,” Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at N.Y.U., told me.
- There are enough Covid uncertainties that some precautions can make sense for children,such as wearing masks indoors or avoiding crowded places. “The actual overall threat of death is minuscule, and the threat to health is quite low,” Dr. Robert Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco, said, “but if I had young kids, I’d still really prefer they not get Covid.”
- The riskiest areas are those with the lowest vaccination rates, which tend to be in the Southeast and the Mountain West. “If I were living in a place where cases were rising, I’d be more worried that my children could contract Covid,” Nuzzo said.
- Polls suggest that many Democratic voters have an inflated sense of Covid’s risks to children. If you’re liberal, you may want to ask yourself if you fall into this category. (If you’re conservative, you may want to encourage more of your friends to get vaccinated.)
- Consider all risks to your child’s health, from COVID to swimming to baseball with regard to health injury.