by Kristie Clark, MD, FAAP
This is my first President’s Perspective article for the KAAP, and I could not have imagined the challenging circumstances under which I would write this when I became President-Elect over 2 years ago. Whereas the nation has experienced over 5 million cases of confirmed COVID-19, Kansas has had over 32,000 cases. On a personal note, in the last year I have endured half a dozen major surgeries and procedures for a congenital defect. Facing medical issues in a pandemic fosters compassion.
This summer KAAP members took the lead in making recommendations to the KDHE and KSDE concerning school re-opening plans, and although there were many sides to these discussions, ultimately the current evidence supports the guidelines for mandatory cloth face coverings for all students K-12 (Mask Guidance for School-Aged Children). Wearing a cloth face covering protects persons from transmitting the virus to others, and newer evidence released July 20 shows that the wearer may also benefit from some protection from becoming infected.
A recent JAMA Pediatrics article from July 30 shows that children shed the COVID-19 virus as much if not more than adults, even though they often have only mild symptoms or asymptomatic infections. The AAP recently released Clinical Guidance on August 13 on cloth face coverings for children which recommends that with rare exception all children over the age of 2 should wear a cloth mask covering.
On the local level contentious debates have ensued over students wearing masks with some Kansas County Commissioners resolving to overturn the Governor’s Executive order for mandatory cloth coverings for K-12 students. In Georgia, home of the CDC and where I attended medical school next door at Emory, schools have already opened only to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks. We anxiously await our fate in Kansas.
As I continue to see patients in the clinic, I make a strong recommendation for following the vaccine schedule including getting the yearly Influenza Vaccine. I also recommend and support breastfeeding as the ideal food for babies, one reason being the transfer of antibodies to the baby to help fight infection. Given we do not know if or when we will have a vaccine for COVID-19, it is vital to do what we can to prevent the diseases that we can prevent.
We are constantly learning new things about COVID-19, and it is best to stay flexible and open-minded. As we learn more, we will revise our recommendations. Whenever there is a debate about what is best, putting the patient first helps us make the best decision. Our patients and their families depend on us to be a voice of reason.
Due to the pandemic, rather than meet in Chicago at the AAP Headquarters, I will attend a virtual ALF on August 15 and 16 to vote on resolutions which will serve as recommendations to the National AAP Board. The KAAP is here to support you. Thank you for all you do for children.
Kristie Clark MD