A Texas pediatrician has warned she is “more worried for children than I have ever been” as the virulent delta coronavirus strain takes hold across the country.
Heather Haq, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and pediatric hospitalist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, voiced her concerns in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have cared for kids admitted with covid-19 to the children’s hospital in Houston where I am a pediatrician,” she wrote. This included newborns, school-age kids, tweens and adolescents who were severely ill.
While it’s true that the majority of children who contract the virus are asymptomatic or suffer only mild symptoms, Haq said it’s worrying how unpredictable the virus can be.
“One thing that terrifies me as a parent is that we can’t predict why some children get so incredibly sick from covid while others have mild disease; we don’t know why some go on to have lingering debilitation and symptoms for months, and others make quick recoveries,” she wrote.
“What I do know is that in this moment, as the highly contagious delta variant becomes the predominant strain circulating and we enter another covid surge, I am more worried for children than I have ever been.”
The number of children contracting COVID-19 has increased significantly since the end of June, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found. Multiple states have reported an upward trend in child hospitalizations amid the ongoing surge in new cases.
Vaccination rates in teens remain very low, and children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive a jab.
Due to the high transmissibility of the delta variant, Haq said, more children will be exposed to the virus than before, leading to more infections and, in turn, more hospitalizations.
“As school reopenings coincide with the growth of the delta variant, I worry we will see large outbreaks in school settings that we didn’t see with less-contagious versions of the virus,” Haq said.
She implored every eligible child and adult to seek out a vaccine and warned that it is still crucial to follow mitigation measures despite pandemic fatigue.
“Masking (including universal masking in schools), physical distancing, testing, contact tracing, quarantining and vaccinating do help,” she reminded readers. “If we abandon these crucial tools now, we are putting our children in harm’s way.”
Read her full essay in The Washington Post.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.