By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – COVID cases among America’s children are surging to all-time highs.

This, as millions of kids head back to school, and many states are not allowing basic COVID prevention measures.

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But, as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Remember way back at the start of the pandemic, about 20 months ago, when it was thought that children were pretty much immune to COVID? Well, that’s not the case anymore. The latest statistics are a frightening wakeup call for parents.

As of Sept. 2, over five million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and more than a quarter of a million pediatric cases were added just in the past week. That’s the largest number of child cases yet in a week. Perhaps most alarming, for that same week ending Sept. 2, children were 26.8%, more than one quarter of all reported COVID cases.

COVID VACCINE

“There is no doubt that the frequency at which children are being infected is dramatically increased,” said Dr. Norm Christopher of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

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Dr. Jennifer Lighter, hospital and pediatric epidemiologist for NYU Langone Health, says COVID cases are surging in southern states where there is a low rate of vaccinations, but not in the New York area.

“We’re not seeing children come into the academic medical centers throughout the city with COVID,” Lighter said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

It’s clear that vaccinations, which are approved for children 12 and up, will protect them from COVID. But what about children under age 12?

“The family should get vaccinated. Most transmissions occur within a home. So we call that ‘cocoon care,’ when young children can’t get vaccinated for a specific pathogen, that the family gets vaccinated to cocoon and protect that child,” Lighter said.

Lighter does say that most cases of pediatric COVID are relatively mild, but still, there are a few children who get hospitalized and die – a risk most parents would want to avoid.

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We still don’t know what lasting lung and heart damage will be in even those mild cases.

Dr. Max Gomez