The new coronavirus could have long-term health consequences for children, even those who have seemingly mild cases or never show symptoms, Palm Beach County’s health department director warned Tuesday.
Dr. Alina Alonso’s remarks to the Palm Beach County Commission have struck a different tone than Gov. Ron DeSantis’ messaging that classrooms should reopen in the fall. DeSantis has said he’d feel comfortable sending his own children to school if they were old enough to attend, stressing the virus presents a low risk to children.
Alonso told commissioners that it’s too early to know how the virus could affect children after they recover, and X-rays have revealed the virus can cause lung damage even in mild cases.
“They are seeing there is damage to the lungs in these asymptomatic children. ... We don’t know how that is going to manifest a year from now or two years from now,” Alonso said. “Is that child going to have chronic pulmonary problems or not?”
About a third of children younger than 18 tested for COVID-19 in Palm Beach County have been positive, Alonso said. As of Friday, more than 4,000 people under the age of 18 have been tested in Palm Beach County.
“This is not the virus you bring everybody together to make sure you catch and get it over with,” Alonso said. “This is something serious, and we are learning new information about this virus every day.”
Researchers also have linked a serious and potentially deadly inflammatory condition with COVID-19 in children. The condition, called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, doesn’t appear to be widespread.
DeSantis told talk radio host Rush Limbaugh last week that the risk to children is “very low.” Of the 4,409 COVID-19 deaths reported by Florida, four have been younger than 18.
“I’ve got a 3-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and a newborn daughter,” DeSantis said in the radio interview. “And I can tell you if they were school age, I would have zero concern sending them.”
Skyler Swisher can be reached at email@example.com, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher.
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