Researchers have started to calm parents’ fears about their child’s risk of getting a severe illness from COVID-19, even though there is still some risk for children infected with the novel coronavirus.

Are kids at risk for severe COVID-19?

Researcher Dr. Roshni Mathew, who is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University School of Medicine, told NPR that children face the same level of risk for COVID-19 as they do the flu.

  • But, she said, parents seem more worried about COVID-19 because it’s mysterious and new.
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Another expert, Gretchen Chapman, a psychology professor who studies health questions at Carnegie Mellon University, told NPR that parents don’t need to worry so much about severe illness, either.

  • “If you stop going into stores because you’re terrified you’ll run into an unmasked person, that’s probably overreacting,” Chapman said.

So what does the data say? In total, 300 out of 74 million children died of COVID-19, with “a few thousand serious illnesses,” according to NPR. Meanwhile, the CDC said there were 188 deaths from the flu in children in the 2019-2020 flu season. This year’s flu season has been a little different because of public health measures and faces masks.

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Should children wear masks?

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Still, it might not be worth throwing caution to the wind. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said over the weekend that children may want to keep their masks on when they return to school in the fall, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” this past weekend: “Wearing masks is difficult in the summertime when it’s hot, and I don’t think that the risk merits that. But I do think parents need to make an assessment about the risk of the environment. … In a crowded, indoor, stuffy setting, in a classroom, for example, I think having kids continue to wear masks for a period of time is reasonable.”
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