With the number of COVID-19 cases among children rising in recent weeks amid the delta variant’s surge and the start of a new school year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the agency’s guidelines for school reopening.
Walensky said Friday the agency was not considering revising the guidelines and most outbreaks in schools are occurring where the layered protection measures the agency recommends are not in place.
From universal masking and vaccine requirements to regular testing and improved ventilation in buildings, “schools should implement as many of these prevention layers as possible, simultaneously, and this serves to protect our children, even if there are inevitable breaches in any single protection layer,” Walensky said.
Also Friday, the CDC released a report detailing a COVID-19 outbreak at a Northern California school in which an unvaccinated teacher spread COVID to 26 other people, including students in their classroom who were ineligible to be vaccinated. The teacher continued to teach despite being symptomatic, and almost all of the students in the classroom’s front rows tested positive, including several with symptomatic cases.
Nationally, child cases have more than quadrupled in the past month, rising from 38,000 cases during the week that ended July 22, to 180,000 during the week that ended Aug. 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reaching levels not seen since the 2020-2021 winter surge.
Children represent more than 22% of weekly reported COVID-19 cases and up to 3.6% of hospitalizations, the academy reported.
The numbers are fueling parents’ anxiety about sending their children back to school, but health experts stress it’s not the schools themselves that are driving up cases.
“It’s the fact that people are not adhering to mitigation methods,” Dr. Andi Shane, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, told USA TODAY.
Also in the news:
►New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she was postponing a vaccine mandate for city workers set to take effect Saturday due to Hurricane Ida. The mandate required proof of vaccination or regular testing starting Monday, but Ida is set to hit the area over the weekend as a major hurricane.
►As COVID-19 cases continue rising, some nurses are worried the profession may soon see a staff shortage.
► A professor is suing the University of California, Irvine, over its vaccine mandate, arguing he has “natural immunity” from having contracted the virus and does not need inoculation.
►A U.K. study found the risk of developing blood clots after contracting COVID-19 naturally was far greater than after receiving a COVID vaccine. The study was published after an Israeli study earlier this week found the risks associated with heart inflammation are far greater for those contract who COVID-19 than for those who get vaccinated.
►Maryland’s State Board of Education voted to mandate face masks in all public schools across the state as the delta variant raises concerns about children returning to the classroom.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 38.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 633,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 214 million cases and 4.4 million deaths. More than 172 million Americans – 51.9% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Tallahassee this week experienced the largest surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Here’s what it’s like inside one it its busiest hospitals.
Judge throws out Florida governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mandatory masks at schools was thrown out Friday by a Tallahassee judge who ruled that the governor overreached his authority, misinterpreted state law and ignored scientific evidence in issuing his order.
Heading into the new school year, DeSantis demanded that counties allow parents to have their children opt out of mask requirements. But Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that school boards are empowered to mandate that all students wear face-coverings, unless they obtain a medical exception.
The judge said DeSantis was wrong in determining that the state’s new “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” law prohibited school districts from enacting limits like masks – the provision on which he based his order.
“This statute does not support a statewide order or any action interfering with the constitutional authority of local school districts to provide for the safety and health of students based on the unique facts on the ground in a particular county,” Cooper said.
– John Kennedy, Florida Capital Bureau
Alabama sees sharp rise in cases among school-age children
Alabama is seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in school-age children, an increase officials say is likely fueled by the delta variant that is causing some schools to temporarily switch to remote learning.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said Thursday a reported 5,571 children ages 5 to 17 contracted COVID-19 last week. That compares to 702 cases in school-age children during the same week last year, when more than half of students were studying remotely and the delta variant was not circulating.
State Health Officer Scott Harris pointed to the delta variant as “the most likely explanation.”
“The numbers are staggering,” Harris said of the increase. “We want to remind people that everyone needs to be vaccinated who is eligible, that is everyone 12 and up. We strongly recommend universal masking in schools.”
US sees lowest rate of increase in cases in weeks, but deaths keep rising
The worst of America’s delta-driven COVID-19 case surge may be coming into sight, though America’s death toll is still rapidly increasing.
For the week ending Thursday, the United States reported 1.09 million cases, a 10.4% increase over the previous week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. That’s the lowest pace of increase seen in nearly two months, and far below back-to-back weeks of increases of more than 66%.
Most states are still reporting case increases, with 42 states showing rising case counts and 42 states reporting rising death counts for the week ending Thursday. But more states have been reporting rising death tolls and falling case tallies as people who were sickened earlier die.
Deaths in the week ending Thursday were up 39% percent from the previous week, when deaths rose 60%.
The United States is now reporting nearly 1,200 deaths per day, with 8,357 deaths reported in the latest week. At that pace, about 50 Americans die every hour.
– Mike Stucka
Arkansas doctor under investigation for prescribing anti-parasitic drug ‘thousands’ of times for COVID
The Arkansas Medical Board is investigating a physician for prescribing a veterinary-grade, anti-parasitic drug to “thousands” of patients – including inmates at an Arkansas county jail – as a treatment method for COVID-19, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationdoes not approve of its use to address the coronavirus.
The drug, ivermectin, has been approved by the FDA for use by people and animals. But it is used to treat parasitic infections, primarily in livestock. According to the FDA: “using any treatment for COVID-19 that’s not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm.”
Dr. Robert Karas is under investigation after he told television station KFSM he had COVID-19 twice and took the drug himself, and he began last October prescribing the drug to inmates at the Washington County Jail. He said he’s also given it to his family members and “thousands” of others.
Board Director Amy Embry declined to The Associated Press on Thursday to elaborate on the panel’s investigation, which she said began in the last two days. In a separate statement released to The Associated Press, Karas clarified that he’s prescribed it to inmates and patients at his clinics who are significantly sick with COVID-19 since late 2020.
– Scott Gleeson
Maine has 34 ICU beds available statewide amid delta surge
Health care leaders in Maine sounded an alarm Thursday over the strain the latest wave of COVID-19 is putting on their hospitals, urging residents to get vaccinated and wear masks.
“We don’t have a lot of other tricks up our sleeves or places we can put patients,” said Dr. Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer for MaineHealth. “We are full.”
Nearly one in five of the COVID cases identified in Maine thus far have been in patients younger than 20, though the overwhelming majority of deaths have occurred among older groups, especially those 70 and older, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 133 people with COVID hospitalized in Maine as of Thursday, according to Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah. Shah said just 34 of the state’s 332 ICU beds were available as of Thursday. There had been 59 ICU beds available two days earlier, he said.
– Steven Porter, Portsmouth Herald
COVID-19 forces Idaho hospitals past capacity, toward crisis
Hospital facilities and public health agencies are scrambling to add capacity as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in Idaho. But many residents don’t seem to feel the same urgency.
Volunteers are helping with contract tracing at the Central District Health Department, and health education classrooms are being converted into COVID-19 treatment units in northern Idaho. Thursday, some Idaho hospitals only narrowly avoided asking the state to enact “crisis standards of care” — where scarce health care resources are allotted to the patients most likely to benefit — thanks in part to statewide coordination.
Meanwhile, unmasked spectators sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the showing arena at the Western Idaho Fair this week as kids maneuvered livestock around the ring. At West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest school district, 21% of students had officially “opted out” of the district’s mask requirement before the first day of school ended on Thursday.
Supreme Court blocks COVID-19 eviction moratorium
The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s eviction moratorium, allowing property owners to begin the process of evicting millions of Americans who are behind on rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over a dissent from the court’s three liberal justices, the court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not have authority to impose the freeze.
“It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken,” the court’s majority wrote in an unsigned opinion. “But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was “disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the delta variant are significant across the country.” As a result, she said, “families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
— John Fritze
Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC director Walensky defends school guidelines amid delta variant