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: Fauci warns of COVID-19 spread in youth sports — and parents call for better enforcement of virus protocols

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While a majority of parents approve of how their children’s sports organizations are handling coronavirus precautions, more than 1 in 4 are less satisfied with the level of enforcement, a new report suggests.

Some 28% of parents say their child’s school, travel or community sports organizations have been “fair” or “poor” at consistently enforcing COVID-19 precautions, according to the latest C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Researchers surveyed a national sample of parents with kids aged 6 to 18 from August to January.

With that said, parents largely gave positive feedback on how these organizations delivered clear information about coronavirus precautions (86%), treated kids fairly (87%) and listened to parents’ concerns (83%); 7 in 10 said consistent enforcement of the rules was “excellent” or “good.” 

Only about 23% of parents in the survey said their kid took part in sports; of the parents whose kids were not participating, about one-third said their child’s sport had been canceled because of the coronavirus, while one-fourth felt COVID-19 made the activity unsafe.


‘We’re finding out that it’s the team sports where kids are getting together — obviously many without masks — that are driving it, rather than in-the-classroom spread.’


— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Large majorities of parents whose kids participated in one or more sports said their organization had informed them about masks and social-distancing guidelines, as well as about when players should abstain from games or practice because of virus exposure. But just 59% said they were informed about when players needed to be tested.

“As more youth sports resume, our poll suggests that parents will need further direction on whether, when and where their child should get tested,” poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a statement. “This is particularly important as cases are rising among younger people.” 


‘As more youth sports resume, our poll suggests that parents will need further direction on whether, when and where their child should get tested.’


— Sarah Clark, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health co-director

The poll results came on the heels of warnings by government health officials, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, about the potential COVID-19 risk posed by youth sports

“We’re finding out that it’s the team sports where kids are getting together — obviously many without masks — that are driving it, rather than in-the-classroom spread,” Fauci said last Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” “When you go back and take a look and try and track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school, it’s just that.”

During a White House briefing a day earlier, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky highlighted recent rises in coronavirus cases among 18- to 24-year-olds, noting that “many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities.”

This trend, she said, “is why we really want to remain vigilant with regard to the guidance there, as well as testing strategies that could help prevent clusters.” The CDC offers advice and risk-mitigation strategies for playing sports.

Though children appear to represent a small fraction of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, experts say it will be important to vaccinate them, especially given the potential for more dangerous variants of the virus to emerge and the possibility of complications such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but potentially fatal condition linked to COVID-19.

Still, recent polling suggests that only around half of parents with children under 18 say they’re likely to have their kid get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available for their age group. A separate report by the family advocacy organization ParentsTogether noted that “parents report anxiety about unknown side effects as their top concern, say they want to know more about the research, and need more evidence of the vaccine’s safety.”

The vaccines currently under emergency-use authorization in the U.S. are authorized for use either in individuals 18 and older (Moderna
MRNA,
+7.40%

) or 16 and older (Pfizer
PFE,
+0.51%

-BioNTech
BNTX,
+6.68%

), but trials to test COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and efficacy in children are underway.  The use of Johnson & Johnson’s
JNJ,
-1.34%

vaccine was paused on Tuesday due to concerns about blood clots.

Pfizer and BioNTech said in late March that a Phase 3 trial of their vaccine in participants aged 12 to 15 demonstrated 100% efficacy and “robust” antibody responses, outstripping prior results seen in vaccinated trial participants aged 16 to 25. 

The two companies also said they had dosed the first healthy children a week earlier in their global Phase 1/2/3 study, which aims to evaluate the two-dose vaccine in kids aged six months to 2 years, 2 to 5 years, and 5 to 11 years.

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