Top Pediatrician Worries Overriding Mask Mandates Will Put Utah’s Kids At Risk

Aug 13, 2021, 9:48 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Council’s decision to send students back to school with no mask mandate comes as the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19, nationally, is higher than at any point in the pandemic.

Last week, there were 94,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children and 16,000 children were hospitalized. One of Utah’s leading pediatric infectious diseases experts said it’s a bad idea to overlook the science and overturn the order of the county health department.

Children’s hospitals in other parts of the country are seeing record numbers of children sick with COVID-19, mainly because of the rapid spread of the delta variant.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, fears the same will happen here if children return to the classroom unmasked.

“We do know that school can be safe in person. But, it can’t be safe if we don’t have universal masking,” Pavia said in a media briefing.

Primary Children’s Hospital is already seeing a moderate increase in pediatric COVID-19 patients here, Pavia said. Two children are critically ill with COVID-19 and a few more have been hospitalized with the virus. But there is a crunch on pediatric beds because construction has reduced hospital capacity by 20%, and there are children in the hospital due to accidents and illness.

“Primary Children’s currently, essentially has no available beds,” Pavia said. “We are into our surge capacity.”

That means there are no longer any single rooms, and they are using other areas of the hospital to treat children. He said the hospital is already stressed without a major surge from COVID-19.

“This is all before school starts. Last year, when school started, we saw an enormous surge of transmission first in the universities, and then in schools,” Pavia said.

Right now, there are 2.5 times more children diagnosed with COVID-19 compared to this time last year, when children were heading back to school with everyone masked, which is what Pavia still recommends.

“I usually try to keep emotion out of these briefings. It’s very hard for me,” Pavia said. “I feel very, very strongly that we are about to put our children at great risk.”

He said it’s about making responsible decisions.

“As doctors and public health officials, we take responsibility for trying to protect the health of kids. I think if people overturn those recommendations, and kids get very sick or die, they have to realize it really is their responsibility now,” Pavia said. “They should think very long and hard about that.”

Pavia said students should all be masked, at least until this surge of the delta variant subsides. He’s urging vaccination for everybody eligible to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Jed Boal

Despite reaching 5,000 deaths, Utah’s COVID-19 numbers are down

The director of the World Health Organization said yesterday about COVID-19, “the end is in sight,” even if we are not there yet.
12 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
LAURA UNGAR AP Science Writer

Is COVID-19 winding down? Scientists say no

New booster shots have arrived and social distancing guidelines have eased but COVID-19 infections aren't going away anytime soon. Experts predict the scourge that's already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future as the virus continues to cause deaths and may well mutate or evolve into a new disease.
19 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...

US clears updated COVID boosters targeting newest variants

U.S. clears updated COVID-19 boosters targeting the newest omicron strain; shots could begin within days.
27 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Jed Boal

Updated COVID-19 boosters likely available next month as ‘twindemic’ fears emerge

Concerns about a potential surge in COVID-19 and the flu at the same time this fall are emerging again. Each of the last two years, warnings about a so-called “twindemic” did not materialize, but this year could be different.
1 month ago
FILE: Davis School District....
Mike Anderson

Davis School District adds resources to handle COVID-19

The Davis School District is shifting their approach to COVID, putting more decisions in the hands of parents while getting more funds to help monitor the virus.
2 months ago
Ashley Moser

Utah family hasn’t seen father in nearly 1,000 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

“None of us were expecting to not see him three years later,” a daughter shares how her Father remains in China.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Top Pediatrician Worries Overriding Mask Mandates Will Put Utah’s Kids At Risk