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COVID Taking a Toll on Pregnant Women and Babies
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Angus Diges, Eva Hatzenbuehler and other students taking part in Wood River High School’s production of “Almost, Maine” are wearing clear face masks to allow the audience to see their faces during the play.
   
Saturday, October 2, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho health officials are urging pregnant women and those considering pregnancy to get vaccinated to prevent death to mother and child.

Idaho physicians have witnessed losses of moms with COVID and COVID-related stillbirths as babies are delivered prematurely, Dr. Lauren Miller told reporters at a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve had losses of babies and losses of Moms and that’s truly devastating,” said the perinatal health director for St. Luke’s Health System. The mothers that doctors are seeing in the ICUs were previously healthy—some, even runners, she added.

Dr. Nikolai Shalygin, neonatologist at Mountain States Neonatology, said he has seen an increase in babies born prematurely because their mothers are suffering with respiratory complications from COVID. Prior to birth, the babies were showing no signs of distress doctors would expect for preemies.

One baby born to a COVID-positive mother had a leak that caused the baby’s lung to collapse. The baby needed a ventilator to breathe and a test tube to evacuate air. Others need to be on oxygen longer than would have been expected. Still others have prematurity issues they likely would not have had had they made it to term.

“Every single baby in NICU right now has been born to COVID-positive, unvaccinated mother,” he added. “We haven’t had any born to COVID-positive vaccinated mothers.”

The advice from the doctors followed similar advice issued by the Centers for Disease Control one day earlier. Pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus, as well as increased risk or pre-term birth, the CDC said.

The vaccine does not affect fertility or negatively affect pregnancy, as some have been led to believe, infectious disease expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld said.

More than 1,700 Idaho youth tested positive for COVID this past week and the number of youth hospitalized with COVID is five times higher than what hospitals saw in June, said Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group.

Unvaccinated teens are being hospitalized at 10 times the rate of vaccinated teens. And there was a 10-times increase in the number of children between the ages of 0 and 4 hospitalized during the last week of August, compared to a single week in June, he said.

“That’s a scary figure,” he added.

Peterman said a recent national analysis of 520 counties indicated pediatric COVID-19 cases were significantly higher in counties without mask mandates in schools. That’s borne out locally, he said.

In the Boise School District, where masks have been required since school began, the test positivity has ranged between 6.5 percent and 19.7. In schools without mask requirements, including Caldwell, Kuna and Nampa, positivity rates have ranged between 18.9 percent and 31.8 percent. West Ada’s positivity rate has decreased from a high of 30.9 since the board began requiring masks, he said.

“We’re seeing long-haul COVID symptoms in adolescents,” he added. “A formerly perfectly health adolescent now has a pacemaker. Others—athletes—have taken months to recover.”

Dr. Kenny Bramwell, system medical director of St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, said he could find no nice words to describe how some school boards have failed to respond adequately to the crisis.

“Masks to me are a rather trivial thing for me to wear in the course of my day as an emergency doctor. And they’ve been shown in materials from the CDC to change the prevalence of COVID in a school by at least one third,” he said.

Dr. Jennier King, pediatric hospitalist director for Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, said she’s seen an uptick in suicide attempts during the pandemic.

“Kids are having to deal with loss and grief at earlier ages, at times in their lives when they shouldn’t have to, because they’re losing family members who were not vaccinated,” she explained.

Peterman agreed: “I’ve practiced many years and have never seen so much anxiety, depression and mental health issues in children—not because they’re wearing masks but because of other factors.

Currently, 28 percent of Idaho children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated; 35 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds ae fully vaccinated, according to Idaho Health and Welfare records.

During September 401 Idahoans died from COVID, according to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. That’s nearly double the 220 Idahoans who died from the virus in August.

The state added 53 deaths on Thursday—a day in which it recorded more than 1,900 COVID cases. One of those deaths was the first recorded COVID-related death in Camas County.

BACKLOG SKEWS COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

Recent data on the Idaho Health and Welfare COVID-19 vaccine dashboard has appeared to show that the number of daily new cases is trending downward. But that’s a mirage—the result of a backlog in cases at public health districts.

Several public health districts are behind in their reporting to the state due to the high volume of new cases, said Niki Forbing-Orr, public information manager for Health and Welfare.

A record high 793 COVID-19 hospitalizations was set this week statewide.

 

 

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