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Health Officials Urge Parents to Protect Children
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Fishermen practice social distancing—remember that?—at Boxcar Bend ahead of Tuesday’s snowstorm that dropped 5 inches on the top of Baldy and two to three inches at bottom.
   
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho health officials are doubling down on encouraging families to do what they can to protect children under 5 after the state confirmed the first death of an Idaho child to COVID.

Children under 5 have not yet been authorized to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Consequently, it’s important for the mother and others in the family to get vaccinated, wash hands frequently and wear a face mask to protect those children, Dr. Guillermo Guzman, OB-GYN with Saint Alphonsus Health System, told reporters at the state’s weekly COVID briefing.

The child, under 1, died in October in a county under the jurisdiction of Southwest Health District. The district encompasses Canyon, Owyhee, Payette, Washington, Adams and Gem counties.

No more details are being provided to protect the child’s family.

“This situation highlights the seriousness of COVID-19,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Idaho Division of Public Health, noting that nearly 900 children have died of COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

COVID CASES AMONG KIDS DOUBLES

South Central Public Health District officials have announced that they are now providing vaccines for children between 5 and 11.

“It is a relief to finally be at a place we can offer this protection for our kids,” said Melody Bowyer, District Director. “COVID-19 infections in children more than doubled this fall compared to last. We want to bring normalcy back to our kids’ lives and to do that we need to slow this virus. Vaccination is the most effective way to do it.”

Cases in school-aged children in south-central Idaho more than doubled in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the health district’s data. Cases began increasing in June and July as the Delta variant made inroads in Idaho. They skyrocketed after school started.

The district recorded 2,256 cases in children up to 17 years of age during the first 15 months of the pandemic and 2,060 in the five months since. The only group of youth seeing a decrease in cases during the past five months was 12- to 17-year-olds.

Bowyer noted that that that group has had access to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine since June.

Those who wish to schedule a vaccine appointment with South Central Public Health District should call 208-737-5966. Those who have questions about the vaccine can call an English hotline at 208-737-1138 or a Spanish hotline at 208-737-5965.

Doctors also encourage parents to talk with their pediatrician if they have concerns about vaccines for children.

PROTECTING MOTHER AND CHILD

State health officials emphasized Tuesday that pregnant women should get vaccinated and said they may even receive a booster shot if they received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine six months previously or a Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months previously.

A woman’s body undergoes many changes to adapt to carrying a baby, and COVID and other respiratory infections can hamper her ability to carry her baby for the full nine months.

Guzman said he has seen several pregnant mothers suffer the consequences of COVID, including premature labor. And he’s worked with premature babies that have spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, as a result.

A vaccinated mother offers protective antibodies to her unborn, said Guzman.

“The vaccine has been around for over a year and we have not seen an increase in pregnancy complications among the vaccinated population,” he added. “I recommended my sister-in-law get a vaccine; she just delivered a healthy baby boy in Texas.”

After zero maternal mortality due to COVID in 2020, the state has seen four COVID-related deaths in 2021 among women who were pregnant within a year before they died.  Two Idaho babies were stillborn this year, COVID listed as a cause on their death certificate.

There is no evidence vaccinations cause infertility, said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist.

STILL IN CRISIS STANDARDS OF CARE

Idaho hospitals remain in crisis standards of care, offering doctors guidelines for rationing care if they need to due to the large number of patients with COVID-19 and other health issues currently filling hospitals.

But things are improving with the 14-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases dropping from 1,287 cases a day in early October to about 772 cases per day as of Monday.

Hospitalizations have also dropped, with 399 people hospitalized with COVID on Friday, down from 793 in late September. The state has been averaging 127 COVID patients in ICUs with 75 on ventilators, said Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen.

VACCINATION RATE AMONG YOUTH REMAINS LOW

To date 55.6 percent of Idahoans 12 and older are fully vaccinated. Eighty percent of those 65 and older are vaccinated and nearly 40 percent of Idahoans 65 and older have gotten booster shots. But the vaccination rate among young Idahoans is low—just 32 percent of those between 12 and 16 are fully vaccinated.

Some parents have been concerned about the risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart in young people who get the vaccine.

Myocarditis, though very rare, is more common in young people, perhaps because of puberty, said Hahn. It seems to be associated with viral infections, such as influenza or COVID.

“A young person is more apt to get myocarditis with the infection than a vaccine,” she added. “I’m more worried about the disease than the side effects.”

BLAINE COUNTY’S COVID RISK DROPS

Blaine County’s risk assessment has edged down from critical to high, according to South Central District Health. Camas County is now rated moderate.

Blaine County averaged 2.54 new cases per 10,000 residents over the two weeks ending Oct. 30. And it averaged six new cases a day from Tuesday, Nov. 2 through Monday, Nov. 8, as it recorded 38 new COVID cases.

But its test positivity is 7.52 percent—still higher than the 5 percent threshold health officials like to see.


 

 


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