Pediatricians, medical community call for increased efforts to limit spread of COVID-19, citing jump in cases among children

A coronavirus graphic

MADISON, Wis. — A group of pediatricians and other members of the medical community are calling on the public to double down on efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 citing a concerning rise in cases among young people around the state.

In the past few weeks, Wisconsin has seen more cases in people under the age of 18 than any other age group, according to UW Health experts. Health officials said the lack of vaccines approved for children, combined with the prevalence of more contagious COVID-19 variants, is helping fuel COVID-19 outbreaks in educational settings.

Nearly 470 potential outbreaks in educational settings are being investigated, according to a news release from UW Health. While COVID-19 is typically more severe for older adults, experts said the risk of severe illness in children shouldn’t be discounted.

It is our collective responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our most important and precious resource – our children,” said Dr. Ellen Wald, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Together, we must assure continued adherence to the mitigation strategies that we know to be extremely effective in providing protection during in-person school and co-curricular activities, including athletics. As custodians of the safety of our children, please join in this effort.”

According to recently released research from the Journal of the American Medical Association, 11.7% of pediatric patients with COVID-19 researchers studied were hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 31.1% were sick enough to need intensive care.

Until vaccines are widely available for children, health officials said following public health safety measures, including masking up, social distancing and staying home when feeling unwell are the best strategies to fight the pandemic.

“We have come so far and we all have a role to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Until the vaccine is available to all ages, we strongly encourage everyone to continue to wear a mask, continue to practice social distancing when possible and, as always, continue to wash your hands thoroughly and often,” said Dr. Michael Gutzeit, chief medical officer of Children’s Wisconsin. “Prevention remains the most effective strategy in overcoming this pandemic and we know these safety precautions work and can go a long way to limiting the spread of the disease.”

The Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Children’s Wisconsin, Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Wisconsin Medical Society all came out in support of UW Health’s push for increased vigilance in the fight against COVID-19.