Dr. Rai talks COVID-19 and Back 2 School

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:12 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Masks and vaccines should be used as mitigation tools to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, according to Prevea President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to talk about children getting sick and how quickly they can spread the variant.

“It’s [Delta variant] a very different animal, unfortunately. I think people need to start treating it that way. We can’t look at this as I was trying to prevent the adults from getting sick, or let’s keep the kids away from grandma and grandpa, we don’t want them in the hospital. Now it’s the image of trying to prevent our kids from going into the hospital,” says Dr. Rai.

WISCONSIN SITUATION

“Since the last time I was here we went from that CDC definition of what we’d call substantial spread, or orange as I call it on the map, to high, which is red. So we went in the wrong direction. We’re worse. Still seeing the majority, if not most, of all cases being unvaccinated, which does include children and we’re seeing an increase in pediatric outpatient cases, as well.”

CHILDREN AND DELTA

“We really shouldn’t be looking at comparing last September to this September. We have a new animal: Delta. Very different than the original COVID that we were dealing with. We allowed this virus to mutate, unfortunately, and this is what we have now. So kids are getting sicker, primarily because they’re the unvaccinated, so I think we need to look at that. A percentage of them are getting even sicker, and if you look at everything by percentages, it’s a little more common sense there that a lot more kids are getting sicker because they’re not vaccinated. So a percentage of them are going to wind up in the hospital. But we are seeing across the country somewhat shocking pictures of pediatric intensive care units, down south, in Iowa which is not too far south, filling up. So we have to understand this time last year it was about grandma and grandpa in the hospital and how do we keep them safe. Now it’s images of our children in the hospital, which is extremely concerning, and how do we keep them safe.”

DPI MASKING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SCHOOLS

“The number one goal is to have kids in school. I don’t think anybody ever wants to see a virtual school-type setting again, but it may happen if large outbreaks happen in schools. So how do you mitigate that? How do you prevent that? We talk about masks as mitigation. We don’t talk about them as being perfect. We know they’re not perfect, but they do work. They slow the spread down. Mitigation is not elimination. It’s a mitigation aspect. The CDC recommended it nationwide. Our Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has recommended it within the state, that children who are unvaccinated when they’re in an indoor environment, and now they’re saying everybody, so even the vaccinated, correct myself there, should be masked, including teachers. The reason there is to try to stop the spread from schools so schools don’t go into situations where you have 20, 30 kids in a classroom being infected. Remember with the original COVID virus we talked about, one child could be in a classroom and five-or-six others could get sick and we were really worried about that. With Delta, understand how fast it spreads and how much virus there is in the air when one child comes in the room. Thirty could easily get sick. Then you look at a percentage of--say it’s only two percent that winds up in the hospital--all of a sudden every single school has a kid in the hospital when you look at it from a percentage standpoint. That’s what we’re trying to mitigate. That’s what DPI and CDC were trying to do by recommending masking. It isn’t about trying to perfectly prevent kids from getting sick. We never said the vaccine was 100 percent. But it’s one more step to prevent people from getting sick.”

KIDS UNDER 12 AND VACCINE

“I think that’s probably one of the biggest frustrations in the pediatric community and the family practice community today is we’ve been waiting on, specifically ages 5-11, to get vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics has articulated this to the FDA through a nice letter from their board of directors saying now is the time to approve the vaccine for children. What this letter is showing you is the research is there. We’ve had the kids in trials. Why are we trying to stretch this out longer than we would than any other vaccine trial? It’s gone through all of the safety data that it should. The data’s been reviewed. It’s time now to take this to committee and approve it. That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying. Why the time now? It’s because of the outbreaks we’re seeing from Delta. We know the vaccine works as a mitigation tool. It keeps kids and adults healthier. We need to do something to do that given the spikes we’re seeing across the country. And that’s what the AAP is trying to do.

“It’s [Delta variant] a very different animal, unfortunately. I think people need to start treating it that way. We can’t look at this as I was trying to prevent the adults from getting sick, or let’s keep the kids away from grandma and grandpa, we don’t want them in the hospital. Now it’s the image of trying to prevent our kids from going into the hospital.”

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