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Pediatricians 'frightened' as students return to school with Delta variant spreading

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Posted at 4:05 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 18:14:18-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Classrooms are full again with students. But with the Delta variant much more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, pediatricians tell ABC Action News they are very concerned.

“Schools have mostly an unvaccinated population, not in masks, in tight spaces, with a highly contagious virus. We are frightened, as pediatricians, we are downright frightened," said Dr. Joe Perno, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Dr. Perno says he is seeing more and more cases involving children.

“Every week in July we broke a record. As we’ve moved into August we broke a record. As the sheer number of cases have gone up so have the number of patients admitted to our hospital," said Perno.

Doctors say the symptoms of COVID are very generalized, including fever, runny nose, and a cough.

But with the Delta variant so prevalent, it’s best to get your child tested.

“You may have mild symptoms, you may have a little sniffle, cough, or cold. But if you bring it home, who's to say that your younger sibling or your older grandparents may not have much more severe symptoms," said pediatrician, Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman.

Testing is available at many pediatricians offices, urgent cares, and testing centers around Tampa Bay. Check with your county’s health department for those locations.

“My suggestion is, even if only the rapid test is available it’s still better than nothing. You know right away if your child has COVID or not. And you can isolate and you can keep that child away from other family members or their classmates," said Zimmerman.

Meanwhile, doctors say prevention is more important than ever.

They say that means everyone eligible should get vaccinated, and kids need to wear masks at school.

“Whatever happens to one child affects everyone that the child comes in contact with," said Zimmerman.

Pediatricians say while many cases may be mild, if your child has severe symptoms like trouble breathing, loss of appetite, and lack of alertness, take them to the emergency room right away.