COVID-19, Our Children & Moving Forward
I completely understand the fear that people are experiencing about this virus, and how watching news reports on cases increasing can cause panic. Let me try my best to reassure you, and give you tips on how to avoid worry:
Please be very careful about the media sources you use. Dramatic news generates more revenue and attention for reporters than simply boringly reporting ‘all is well,’ so some news sources may have a motive to constantly keep worrying you. To put it frankly, if you read or see a news story that tries to panic you about rising “cases” without giving more context (about the declining death rate, about the age distribution of the death/hospitalization rate, etc), you should not trust that news source. For example, earlier this week we had the fewest US deaths from coronavirus in several months, yet this was hardly even mentioned by many news organizations, who instead ran stories about a rise in the number of cases. Don’t fall for their sensationalizing tactics.
Please keep in mind that “cases” is not a synonym for “deaths,” or “serious illness,” or even “slightly bothersome illness.” This illness may be with us for a long time, there will constantly be new people catching it, and there may even be periods when the number of cases jumps up dramatically (like flu cases during our yearly flu season). Unless something changes about the danger of covid to children, the case number is besides the point.
Please keep in mind that “deaths” is not a synonym for “pediatric deaths.” Chances are that someday there may be a significant, documented increase in coronavirus deaths. Yet unless something dramatic and totally unexpected happens these deaths will remain overwhelmingly among the very elderly and vulnerable, such as those in nursing homes.
Please accept and celebrate good news when it is provided. This illness is not dangerous to children – that’s good news! Most kids who get it don’t even know they have it – that’s good news! It is significantly less dangerous to children than the flu – that’s good news! We should be so thankful that in the midst of this pandemic, while we have to worry about our most vulnerable elderly family and friends, we can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to our children.
Please don’t take my word for it. Look at the data for yourself. Texas has a great site up, easy to navigate, with all the updated statistics. You can find it at the Texas Department of Health (https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/), click on the case counts link at the top, it will take you to the graphs. There are various graphs to look through, like the case trends and hospitalization trends, but the one NOT to skip is the fatality demographics graph, it dramatically illustrates how little children have to fear from this illness.
All of which is to say, yes, absolutely, you should encourage your kids to go outside, play with their friends, and go to camp. If you have elderly, vulnerable family close by, summer camp could be the very best option for your kids, it’ll keep them away from grandparents without crushing their spirit in an indefinite homebound detention.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Adrian Gaty is a primary care pediatrician who practices at Chisholm Trail Pediatrics Forest Creek in Round Rock, Texas