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'Brand-new ballgame.' Epidemiologist says kids at risk with new UK variant

The spread of a new COVID-19 variant throughout the U.S. is causing some parents to re-evaluate sending their kids back to school.

News 12 Staff

Apr 5, 2021, 4:18 PM

Updated 1,171 days ago

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The spread of a new COVID-19 variant throughout the U.S. is causing some parents to re-evaluate sending their kids back to school.
"Please understand, this b.1.1.7 variant is a brand-new ballgame," says epidemiologist Michael Osterholm.
The b.1.1.7 strain is the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K., and Osterholm says the are new challenges with this variant. "It infects kids very readily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we didn't see children under eighth grade get infected often or they were not frequently very ill, they didn't transmit to the rest of the community."
But he says now that's has changed, pointing to Minnesota where more than 740 schools have had cases of the U.K variant, and to Michigan, where more and more young people are being hospitalized as cases rise. It's something medical experts in other countries called attention to nearly two months ago when the British Medical Journal said there was emerging evidence from Israel and Italy that more young children are being infected with new variants of COVID-19."
Now it's causing Osterholm to question his own recommendation to send kids back for in-person learning. "B.1.1.7 turns that on its head. These kids now are really major challenges in terms of how they transmit."
Getting vaccinated is crucial, but Osterholm says that’s not enough. "We're not going to have nearly enough in the next six to eight weeks to get through this surge, and we're going to have to look at other avenues to do that, just as every other country in the world who's had a B.1.1.7 surge has had to do."


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