Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcos Mestre is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases among children.
“Right now in the hospital, we have 17 patients who are COVID-positive, six are in our ICU, and one of them is on a ventilator.”
Holtz Children’s Hospital is also seeing uptick in positive cases with kids, and currently have five pediatric hospitalizations and two are in the ICU.
"our positivity rate in the Holtz emergency department in the month of June was 2.4%,” said Holtz Children’s Hospital CMO Dr. Barry Gelman. “And by the end of July, we are 14%, so the virus is circulating more and kids are getting infected.”
Mestre advises parents to make sure their children are wearing masks when indoors and try to avoid their children from having any close interactions, and parents should plan to have their child fully vaccinated in time for the start of school.
Broward County Public Schools students will wear masks when school starts in August.
The school board voted unanimously to make masks mandatory for students and faculty.
“There is no way in good conscious that I could bring anybody back into a school environment, on the bus, the cafeteria, and not have a mask mandate,” Dr. Rosalind Osgood, the school board chair said.
Guidance from the CDC as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics led them to vote for the mask mandate, as well as the recent Covid-19 surge fueled by the Delta variant.
“Approximately 21% of Broward County children ages 12-19 are vaccinated," board member Lori Alhadeff said. "I honestly was shocked to hear this number because I thought the vaccination rate would be much higher.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools already decided to make masks optional, but that came when positivity rates were low and hospitals had very few Covid patients.
“We are in a different position today, where critical elements have unfortunately trended in the wrong direction,” Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho said today. “We don’t want to be rushed into making this decision, time is still on our side.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis says any attempt by the federal government to mandate facial coverings for kids will be fought by the state.
"We're not doing that in Florida, we want our kids to be able to be kids, we need them to be able to breathe," DeSantis said. "It's terribly uncomfortable for them to do it, there's not very much science behind it, there's some schools we had, didn't do masks, others did, the outcomes were not meaningfully different."
Florida is been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending universal masking in schools, even for those who are vaccinated against the virus. The CDC recommended mask-wearing indoors only for students and staff who are not fully vaccinated.
The vaccine has not been approved for children under 12, but if it is shown to be safe for younger ages, vaccine manufacturers may seek emergency authorization.
"Parents obviously can equip their kid to go to school however they want, but there shouldn't be any coercive mandates on our schools," DeSantis said Thursday. "As of right now all the school districts are going in that direction, but there is gonna be it looks like a campaign from Washington to try to change that. We look forward to a normal school year, obviously parents can make decisions how they want to, and we wouldn't restrict that but we certainly will not have any mandates on students or parents in the upcoming school year."
South Florida schools, plans for the upcoming school year are still being discussed and finalized by officials.
Masks in Miami Dade Schools will be optional, as officials say the move is based on current environmental conditions.
Miami-Dade Schools are offering three schooling options: the physical classroom, the online academy or Miami-Dade virtual school.
Broward County Public Schools will offer 100 percent face-to-face learning, as virtual learning will not be an option. Anna Fusco, President of the Broward Teacher’s Union, is frustrated, faculty and staff are nervous that they still don’t have a game plan.
“It should’ve been the number one top priority,” Fusco said. “Our district is consumed with getting an interim superintendent and other responsibilities.”
Both Miami-Dade and Broward school districts are in talks with health officials for guidance.
The CDC updated its coronavirus guidance for schools in the fall.
The guidance now says that only unvaccinated teachers and students need to wear a mask while indoors. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask.
"Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports," the CDC said. "Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe."
Individual school districts should monitor their local situation and craft policies.