BY: Caroline Machiraju
“Science” or smoke?
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, along with his acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, cited the “science” in rationalizing a return to mask mandates for kids across the state’s K-12 schools, on Aug. 31, 2021.
“The science is clear. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children.. Requiring masks in schools will keep our students safer,” said Wolf.
That’s quite a statement; a “danger ahead” warning. And the headlines are screaming the same. “Hospitalizations among kids continue to soar,” reads a Pennlive.com headline on Sept. 5, 2021.
Yet the Pennsylvania DOH doesn’t have clear data showing hospitalizations among children on their PA Covid Dashboard. So we reached out to get some clarity.
When reached for comment by phone, Maggi Barton, Deputy Press Secretary at Pa DOH, acknowledged the limited data on the state’s dashboard, but added: “We are working to collect that information.” (Data hasn’t always been a strongpoint for the Wolf administration.)
We also emailed Barton these follow up questions (and we’ll update our report when DOH responds):
How many children are currently admitted in hospitals due strictly to Covid?
Of those, how many are in ICU? How many are on ventilators?
How many have other conditions that potentially contributed to their severe Covid symptoms? Can you generalize on what some of those underlying conditions are?
What are the ages of these children? And, if over 12, how many were partly or fully vaccinated?
And, finally, how many have been found to have the Delta variant?
Most Children Recover at Home
One area hospital system responded to our inquiry, detailing the current picture at Penn State Health.
Most children recover at home, said Scott Gilbert, PR Team Lead with PS Health’s Marketing and Communication office. Gilbert said three children are diagnosed with COVID-19 at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital in Hershey, compared with zero pediatric COVID patients at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center and Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Pressed for info on whether the three Covid patients have underlying conditions, Gilbert refused to comment on that (or their ages), citing HIPAA laws. (It’s unclear why disclosing whether they have underlying conditions would violate HIPAA laws, when it would serve the public’s interest in providing a clearer picture of who is susceptible to severe disease, from Covid.)
Gilbert said the public can see patient data, relating to Covid, on their dashboard, updated three times a week.
We also posed these questions to UPMC’s Media Relations department, via email, but have yet to receive a response. It was unclear whether they had a Covid dashboard to glean any sense of their kids’ Covid numbers at this time.
As a final note, the state’s Covid dashboard does show Covid deaths by age group; and, to date, there are still no recorded Covid deaths in children in Pennsylvania.
So we’ll leave you the readers to answer the question: Is there a real danger to children? Or, is the “science” just smoke?