How the Pandemic Is Harming Pediatric Health in the U.S.
Dr. Lee Savio Beers of the American Academy of Pediatrics offers insights on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and helping them through the pandemic.
Air Date: September 29, 2021
Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Featured Guests: Dr. Lee Savio Beers, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
While most of the societal discussion around COVID-19 has been focused on adult cases and the overall impact on the economy, our nation’s youngest residents have also been affected by the pandemic. Children across the country are facing both physical and emotional turmoil as a result of COVID-19.
In a recent Path Forward panel discussion with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explained the impact of COVID-19 on children and how to help them.
Children Are Impacted Both Directly and Indirectly By COVID-19
While COVID-19 might not seem to be as much of a threat to children as it is to older adults, Dr. Beers said she is concerned about both the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 on children.
“These kids are in our hospitals, they're in our ICUs, and some of these children are actually having long-term effects that are lasting sometimes even months,” she said. “Our children have really borne quite a bit of the burden of the pandemic between social isolation and disruptions to their schooling, grief, and loss in their families.”
To Dr. Beers’ point, more than 1.5 million children have lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19 as of July 2021, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“These things all have a tremendous impact on children,” Dr. Beers continued. “The greater the spread of the virus, [and] the more COVID we have in our communities, the greater this impact is on children.”
In addition to children who are sick with COVID-19, many kids are coming in with mental health issues, nutrition problems, obesity, eating disorders, and more, said Dr. Beers.
“None of those things have gone away,” she said. “In fact, many of them have worsened over the course of the pandemic.”
Schools Must Take the Proper Precautions to Teach Kids Safely In-Person
As schools begin to accommodate in-person learning, Dr. Beers stressed the importance of getting our children back in school safely by taking various precautionary measures.
“I think it's our responsibility as adults and leaders to do the things that we need to do to make sure that they can get there and that they can stay there,” she said.
Perhaps the most important strategy she recommended is immunization for adolescents ages 12 and up, as well as all the adults in the school.
“If they're immunized, that's going to drastically decrease the spread of COVID within the building,” Beers explained. “That's going to keep [the vaccinated] safe, and it's also going to keep our little ones who don't yet have access to a vaccine safe.”
Additionally, she advised schools to require masking, ventilation, hand washing, and frequent and rapid testing when necessary — all “important pieces of [a] layered strategy.”
“We want to keep our kids in school,” Dr. Beers said. “We want them [to be] safe. We want them [to be] healthy. And we want them [to] learn.”