Kootenai Health Pediatrician Validated, Well Sort of

Dr. Carroll was right–at least about one thing. The hospitalization rate for <18-year-old-kids positive for Covid jumped to nearly 2%. Since we questioned the Press’ coverage of Dr. Carroll’s Rotary presentation, an additional 934 juveniles confirmed or suspected positive for SARS-CoV2 resulted in 18 hospitalizations among the same demographic. No reports of deaths or PICU transfers of these SARS-CoV2 patients have emerged. The increase of the average 1.1% hospitalization rate is attributed to the Delta variant.

As hospitalization rates of children increased the only local school with a mask mandate, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, dropped the masking requirement October 18, about four weeks after their board member condemned the Press and Dr. Carroll for “[fanning flames of panic].” The charter school reports 20 cases so far this year among its population of 670 individuals. Coeur d’Alene public schools observed a 27% drop in total overall Covid cases over the last four weeks (10/11-11/7, chart 1) despite not requiring masks during the back-to-school Covid surge (chart 2). Masks work (chart 4). So, how do we explain this drop in cases? And, how does a community decide an acceptable risk and mitigation? Is this outcome acceptable? Would masking in schools have prevented eighteen children from hospitalization and hundreds of others from infection? Whether this outcome is satisfactory or not without masks, what about a vaccine mandate?

1. Coeur d’Alene School district schools
2. Kootenai County confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 ages <18

With the recent approval of Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 the new school board will undoubtedly be deluged with demands for vaccine requirements from concerned parents. Natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity rates in the community should be considered along with novel therapeutics. Recently two new therapeutics emerged reporting an 89% reduction in hospitalization and death. Considering the community vaccine uptake–or lack thereof–should school boards or municipalities consider a vaccine mandate for kids or avoid a mandate and accept the risks of additional infections and hospitalizations? The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports nearly 5,000 PHD children <18, less than one in three, have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Unfortunately the dashboard fails to allow further distinction of the data by county. One estimate for Kootenai County based on proportional vaccination uptake is 3,517 (based on Kootenai County comprising 71.3% of the PHD population). At least 3,431 Kootenai County kids have already had covid indicative of 3,517-8,000+ kids with some level of immunity. Judging by the overall vaccine uptake rate in the Panhandle health district a vaccine mandate will not be well received and yield poor compliance.

3. Panhandle Health District Vaccine data. Link: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/idaho.division.of.public.health/viz/COVID-19VaccineDataDashboard/LandingPage accessed 11/8/2021
4. Effectiveness of different mask types at capturing respiratory droplets. A value of 0 means that all droplets were captured, while a value of 1 means no reduction in droplets. From Fischer and others 2020: Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech. Link