Asian Reporter web extra, August 22,
Record delta wave hits kids, raises fear as
U.S. schools open
By Lindsey Tanner
The Associated Press
August 22, 2021
The day before he was supposed to start fourth grade,
Francisco Rosales was admitted to a Dallas hospital with
COVID-19, struggling to breathe, with dangerously low oxygen
levels and an uncertain outcome.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, thought his frightened
mother, Yessica Gonzalez. Francisco was normally healthy and
rambunctious. At age nine, he’s too young to get vaccinated, but
most of the family had their shots. She had heard kids rarely
got sick from the coronavirus.
But with the highly contagious delta variant spreading across
the U.S., children are filling hospital intensive care beds
instead of classrooms in record numbers, more even than at the
height of the pandemic. Many are too young to get the vaccine,
which is available only to those 12 and older.
The surging virus is spreading anxiety and causing turmoil
and infighting among parents, administrators, and politicians
around the U.S., especially in states like Florida and Texas,
where Republican governors have barred schools from making
youngsters wear masks.
With millions of children returning to classrooms this month,
experts say the stakes are unquestionably high.
Very high infection rates in the community "are really
causing our children’s hospitals to feel the squeeze," said Dr.
Buddy Creech, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease
specialist who is helping lead research on Moderna’s vaccine for
children under 12. Creech said those shots probably won’t be
available for several months.
"I’m really worried," said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a
pediatrician and public health expert at the University of
Florida. "It’s just so disappointing to see those numbers back
While pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization rates are lower than
those for adults, they have surged in recent weeks, reaching
0.41 per 100,000 children for ages 0 to 17, compared with 0.31
per 100,000, the previous high set in mid-January, according to
an August 13 report from the Centers for Disease Control and
Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of
Health, calls the spike in cases among children "very
He noted that more than 400 U.S. children have died of
COVID-19 since the pandemic began. "And right now we have almost
2,000 kids in the hospital, many of them in intensive care unit
(ICU), some of them under the age of 4," Collins told Fox News.
Health experts believe adults who have not gotten their shots
are contributing to the surge among grownups and children alike.
It has been especially bad in places with lower vaccination
rates, such as parts of the South.
While it is clear the delta variant is much more contagious
than the original version, scientists are not yet able to say
with any certainty whether it makes people more severely ill or
whether youngsters are especially vulnerable to it.
As experts work to answer those questions, many hospitals are
reeling. Those in Texas are among the hardest hit. On Tuesday,
they reported 196 children being treated with confirmed
COVID-19. That compares with 163 during the previous peak, in
At Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the nation’s largest
pediatric hospital, the number of youngsters treated for
COVID-19 is at an all-time high, said Dr. Jim Versalovic,
interim pediatrician-in-chief. In recent weeks, the vast
majority have had delta infections, and most patients 12 and up
have not had shots, he said.
"It is spreading like wildfire across our communities," he
At times this month, his hospital system has diagnosed 200
children with COVID-19 a day, with about 6% of them needing
hospital care. On some days, the number of children in the
hospital with COVID-19 has exceeded 45.
Versalovic said he suspects hospitalizations of children are
up simply because so many are getting infected, not because the
delta variant makes people more seriously ill.
At Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where Francisco is
being treated, the number of patients with COVID-19 climbed from
10 during the week of July 4 to 29 during the week of August 8.
Francisco is improving and expected to recover, but his
mother is worried and is considering home-schooling him. The
virus "is really dangerous," she said.
The delta surge is yet another test for the nation’s schools,
which are dealing with students who fell behind academically as
a result of remote learning or developed mental health problems
from the upheaval.
Outbreaks have already occurred at reopened schools in the
South that are facing resistance to mask-wearing.
In Texas, some school administrators are mandating masks in
defiance of the governor and state Supreme Court. Among them is
Michael Hinojosa of the Dallas school system, one of the state’s
"This delta variant is different, and the numbers are really
significant in the county," he said. "We’re going to continue
our mask mandate to keep students safe, to keep parents safe, to
keep families safe, and most importantly our teachers, who are
on those frontlines.’’
Although dozens of students and staff have already been
sickened by the virus since the Dallas district’s 180 schools
began reopening on August 5, the numbers are far lower than when
in-person learning resumed in the spring, Hinojosa said.
Knowing the toll the pandemic has taken on children, Hinojosa
is determined to keep his schools open.
"We know they’ve been scarred by it," he said. "That’s why
they need to be back with their friends and teachers."
In DeSoto, a Dallas suburb, schools are also requiring masks,
and superintendent D’Andre Weaver said there has been no
pushback from parents, perhaps, he added, because many are Black
and know their community was hit hard earlier in the pandemic.
Some considered keeping their children home because of the
governor’s opposition to school mask requirements, Weaver said.
As a parent and an administrator, Weaver said the delta surge
"is a major concern, it’s a major frustration. It’s a big fear."
His own two girls started first and second grade this week,
and the first thing he has been asking when he picks them up
after school is "How do you feel? Do you have a sore throat?"
Weaver said. "I know many parents are in the same boat."
While he knows many children suffered during virtual learning
last year, Weaver said, ‘‘We have no choice but to prepare that
as an option.’
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives
support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of
Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.