TAMPA, Fla. — Florida parents have just a few weeks or maybe just days before their kids head back to school and they'll have to decide whether their children will wear masks.
Governor DeSantis signed an executive order last week banning schools from requiring masks for school children.
10 Tampa Bay asked three front line doctors if they will send their own children back to school in a mask this school year. Here are their answers:
Dr. David Berger, Pediatrician, Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care:
Our kids have been vaccinated so we haven't fully decided on it but I also have the feeling, that they're recently vaccinated, so there's a question of immunity waning over time, and I believe people who have been recently vaccinated are going to be at much less risk of that in the first place.
Dr. Nancy M. Silva, Pediatrician, Small World Pediatrics:
They're absolutely going to wear masks. He is fully vaccinated. She is not able to yet. She's too young but they're both going to be fully masked.
Dr. Wassam Rahman, Medical Director, Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital:
I don't have young kids but I would definitely recommend a mask.
From doctors to data...
According to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health, children account for about 1 in 5 new COVID-19 cases in Florida.
There were 21,881 new COVID cases in the age range 0-19 in the report. The state provides data for the age range 0-12 and then ages 12-19. Due to the lack of details in the age range, the age demographic can't be determined.
This time last year, the state was looking at roughly 4,900 new cases in the age range of 0-17. In 2020, the state provided data more frequently and in a different format.
In comparing data from the last week in July 2020 to the last week in July 2021, Florida is reporting roughly more than four times the amount of new COVID-19 cases among pediatric patients.
"It's not going to be pretty, it's not going to be like last year when everyone was masking and we saw very few cases of it," Dr. Berger said of kids going back to school during this wave.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1 in every 84 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida is a pediatric patient.
University of South Florida epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi has been charting these trends since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dr. Wassam Rahman says he's seeing more and more pediatric patients get admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 as well as other viruses starting to circulate since loosening restrictions.
"We're seeing many more patients than we ever did. We used to see one or two a day and our volumes were low, now the ER is bursting at the seams," he said.
It's extremely unlikely for a child to die from COVID-19. In Florida, there have been seven pediatric deaths since the start of the pandemic.