Mild COVID-19 infections rising in Bay Area for children under 12

Cases of COVID-19 infections are soaring among children under the age of 12, according to new numbers from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A total of 93,824 children in the United States tested positive for COVID-19 last week, representing about 15 percent of all cases reported, an increase compared to approximately 71,000 cases the week prior. Kids represent 1.5 to 3.5% of all hospitalizations. 

"We're definitely seeing a lot more illness in this last month and certainly more COVID positive patients in the last month than we've seen in almost the entire pandemic, so that is alarming," said Dr. Jasmin Makar, a pediatric physician at Stanford Children's Health who works at a clinic in San Francisco. 

Makar said her patients who test positive for coronavirus show symptoms of runny noses, coughs, fevers, and sore throats. These are considered mild symptoms that could be mistaken for a number of viruses. Testing for COVID-19 is key, Makar said, for diagnosis, and to prevent schools from becoming transmission sites.

Los Gatos fifth-grader Luca Cocchiglia said he's gotten used to frequent coronavirus testing.

"I just look at the answers, and I'm like, ‘oh, negative,’ that feels good," he said.

Luca and his twin brother Giovanni got their most recent coronavirus test on Monday, before school starts on Thursday. Their elementary school requires weekly testing, along with wearing masks in class. 

"I think yes, it's a risk, but I think it's one I'm willing to take, and just be safe and get the kids learning," Kate Gude, the twins' mother, said, noting that she saw firsthand the social and emotional consequences of distance learning.

"It was very very hard for kids to be on the screen all year, young kids especially," Gude said.

Heading back to the classroom after more than a year of distance learning is no easy decision for parents. Makar recommends parents weigh their child's individual benefits and risks, and consult with their pediatrician for guidance.

"There are clear benefits for a lot of these kids who have suffered from distance learning," Makar said.

She said keeping a mask on your child at school, being in a cohort, keeping a distance from others, and having everyone who is eligible in your household fully vaccinated are effective ways to keep your child and family better protected from the Delta variant. 

"It's honestly pretty easy," Giovanni Cocchiglia said of wearing a mask for an entire school day, "It's so light I don't even recognize it."