CINCINNATI — COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, and cases are not even close to the Tri-State's record-breaking weeks throughout the winter. But a coronavirus variant spreading across the U.S. also could potentially spread more quickly in kids, and with summer camp and sports seasons coming up, that has some local officials alerting parents to take precautions.
While case numbers in children are significantly lower across Greater Cincinnati than they were months ago, Dr. Paul Spearman, infectious disease director at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said coronavirus trends in other states -- particularly the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant -- could predict what might happen in the Tri-State in the months to come.
"The concerns we're hearing from Michigan and from Minnesota, where rates are going up to a higher rate than they are in Ohio, we've got to be concerned about that," Spearman told WCPO.
This is especially true, Spearman said, as kids get ready for summer camps and summer sports.
"COVID is still something that we're all very concerned about," said Lara Wardlow with Cincinnati Parks.
She said Cincinnati Parks staff will be wearing masks this summer and will try leading some of the traditional activities for kids, just in a new, pandemic-friendly way.
"One of my favorites is, we do a tag game and we use a pool noodle for the tagging instead of tagging each other with hands, which is kind of fun," Wardlow said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests all camps and sporting programs have a plan ready, in case someone contracts COVID-19, and it also recommends following guidance from local health officials.
Spearman said parents should be aware, but they shouldn't panic.
"A key distinction for parents is that it does not mean that the B.1.1.7...variant is more harmful or more pathogenic," he said. "It's more transmissible. As we know, kids don't suffer from COVID-19 at the same rates as adults."
Don't panic, he added, but remain vigilant: Spearman fears if people let their guards down this summer, the number of cases in children could rise again.
Vaccine trials are underway at Cincinnati Children's for kids under 16. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests kids ages two and older should wear masks while they're around other kids.