How dangerous is Covid to kids?

With Britain’s schools having only recently reopened, this is a disturbing time for me to mention a British Office for National Statistics report that says kids are getting long Covid. So I offer all the usual apologies for bringing it up, but ignorance of the real world is no protection against snake bites or traffic accidents. That means we might as well open the report and see what sort of snakes or car wrecks it mentions. 

It’s well established that kids are less likely than adults to get sick if they catch Covid, and that if they do catch it their symptoms are likely to be mild. Beyond that, an uneasy-making number of unknowns are running loose. If you follow the literature, you’ll find all sorts of contradictory studies on how likely kids are or aren’t to pass Covid on, either to each other or to adults. If you’re sitting on a couch in Britain and ask Lord Google “Are children at risk of getting sick with coronavirus?” he’ll take you to some withdrawn but still available government advice to schools: “Children are likely to become infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) at roughly the same rate as adults, but the infection is usually mild.” So, basically, it’s all fine, go back to sleep.

Irrelevant photo: Primroses. The yellow ones are wild and the pink are what happens when domesticated ones go out on their own and cross-pollinate. And many thanks to Cat9984 for finding me a way to size photos in spite of the WordPress’s dreaded new editing program.

The government may have posted updated advice, but Lord G. isn’t aware of it. They haven’t taken the old advice down.

The mantra that kids who show symptoms are likely to have mild ones has left a lot of us meditating serenely on the safety of children in these dangerous times. So England, at least, has reopened the schools without any real discussion of what it’ll take to make them safe, because, hey, kids are resilient little bugs, they need to get back to school, and they’ll be fine. 

Teachers? Toss a coin. Some have been vaccinated. The ones who haven’t are statistically likely to be fine. 

Probably.

But evidence is starting to form a more worrying picture. The Centers for Disease Control in the US estimate that in 13% to 15% of kids who do show Covid symptoms, at least one symptom hangs on for more than 5 weeks. That’s more or less the definition of long Covid. (The more or less is there because no fixed definition of long Covid exists yet. A quick check with Lord G. also brought me 12 weeks.)

An Italian study shows that more than half the kids who get symptomatic Covid still have at least one symptom 17 weeks after they were diagnosed. In 43% of them, the symptoms are enough to cause them problems in their daily lives. 

A separate study found long Covid symptoms that included tiredness; weakness; headaches; abdominal, muscle, and joint pain; gastrointestinal symptoms; and skin complaints such as rashes. 

If you’re not worried yet, they also list trouble concentrating, trouble remembering and processing information, and trouble finding the right word. Also unexplained irritability, although those symptoms would be enough to explain anyone’s irritability. 

The first two studies are preprints, meaning they haven’t been peer reviewed yet. A lot of papers have been released that way this past year. I’m reasonably sure preprint is one of the words tha pandemic’s given us. Thank you, Covid. The language was poorer before we had that.

 

Would you get vaccinated if someone offered you for free donuts?

How do you convince reluctant people to get vaccinated? You offer them donuts. Also beer and popcorn. Preferably not all in one meal. The British have an odd–at least to an American–habit of mixing alcohol and sweet stuff, but I’ve never seen anyone take it as far as mixing beer and donuts. And the offers were made in the US anyway.

To be fair, I think those offers were made less by way of inducement and more by way of thanks, or possibly marketing, but I’m not inside the minds that made those decisions, so I can’t know. 

For whatever reasons, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is offering one free donut a day to anyone who brings  proof that they’ve been vaccinated. Chagrin Cinemas (that’s not a typo; they’re in the oddly named Chagrin Falls, Ohio) are offering free popcorn, but only through April. Market Garden Brewery (no note on where that is) is offering ten-cent beers, but there’s fine print: You have to be an adult.  

I know. Someone always wants to spoil the fun.

In Walled Lake, Michigan, the Greenhouse is offering one pre-rolled joint. That’s called Pot for Shots. 

Employers are itchy to get their businesses back to what we so casually call normal, and in the U.S. a number of companies are offering workers cash, gift cards, store credit, and time off. 

Will any of that work? You’re damn right it will–not necessarily the donuts, but the money. According to one survey, almost a quarter of employed Americans who either probably or definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated would reconsider if they were offered money.

In Britain, Boris Johnson took another approach, floating the idea of allowing only people with vaccine certificates into the pub. 

Which pub is that? All pubs are the pub to someone. If they’re not, they go broke quickly. 

The pub and restaurant industry shot back that it would be unworkable, unnecessary, inappropriate, and a very bad idea. Johnson promptly backtracked. Which doesn’t mean the idea’s dead. Johnson does U-turns for a living.

 

Do women leaders kill Covid?

Any number of people argue that since countries led by women have done well during the pandemic, women’s leadership is responsible for those outcomes. But a worldwide survey argues that a nation’s culture matters more than its leader’s gender.

The study looked at 175 countries (hands up everyone who knew the planet had so many), 16 of which were led by women. They didn’t find a statistical difference in death rates based on the leaders’ gender. 

What they did find was that success in dealing with Covid depends on how egalitarian the country is and on how much it prioritizes the wellbeing of society in general. Or to put that another way, it depends on two cultural factors, individualism and power distance, which is a measure of the power differences among the country’s citizens. 

More egalitarian and less individualistic countries have done better in the pandemic.

I’m reading between the lines, but part of the study looks like it’s based on actual data and part of it looks like they’ve used that data for statistical modeling. I’ve been hesitant about statistical modeling, but its prediction that the British Covid variant spread more easily than earlier variants has been borne out by lab work, so maybe I should shut up and accept that statistical modeling might just be useful.

Anyway, it’s up to you. Take the study for whatever you think it’s worth: It says that when both individualism and power distance are high (as they are in, for example, the U.S.), the average death rate is predicted to be 28.79 per 100,000 people. 

Where both are extremely low (as they are, for example, in Trinidad and Tobago and in New Zealand), the predicted average is 1.89 per 100,000.

Countries that value collective action have been more open to wearing masks and enforcing lockdowns. And egalitarian societies tend to have universal healthcare systems in place, along with paid sick leave and policies that make it possible for people to stay at home. 

So why are women leading so many of the countries that have done well? Because egalitarian countries are more likely to elect women as leaders. That gives us a correlation between women in leadership and success in handling  the pandemic, but with only 16 women leaders there’s not enough evidence to say that women leaders are better at it.

Sorry.

If you want a triumphant feminist note, though, the study does note that the pandemic’s messed with the world’s usual way of dismissing women leaders. In normal times, they’re criticized either for being too masculine and aggressive or for being too feminine and weak, which doesn’t leave much of a zone where they’re not shredded. During the pandemic, though, they’ve been praised for their decisiveness.

The world will never stop surprising us.

 

Vaccine news

Brazil has developed a vaccine, ButanVac, that’s expected to be approved in April and to start trials in July. Plans are to produce it in both Brazil and Thailand and distribute it to poorer countries.

Brazil’s short on vaccines and has a record number of cases, not to mention a president, Jair Bolsonaro, who opposes masks and lockdowns, downplays the virus’s danger, and has been publicly skeptical about ButanVac’s effectiveness.

Sao Paulo state’s governor, Joao Doria, said the vaccine, “is the response to those that deny the science and life.” It may be entirely coincidental that Doria’s expected to run against Bolsonaro next year.

*

A group in Germany are working on a Covid vaccine that would come in the form of a pill, making it easy to transport and store and relatively cheap to produce. This isn’t a new technology. Typhoid vaccine is already delivered that way.

The plan is for it to produce two antigens rather than one, giving it a bit of a jump on the virus’s mutations. But it’s still in the early stages, so don’t get excited about it yet.

*

Cuba’s also working on its own vaccine–multiple versions, and one of them, Soberana 2, looks promising and is in stage 3 trials. If it makes it through the trials and is authorized, they expect to have enough doses for all Cubans by the end of summer. Plans are to export them initially to Mexico, Iran, and Venezuela, and after that to the world–and to offer them to tourists.

The island’s kept the number of Covid cases low for much of 2020–some days just one or two cases a day–but in November, needing the cash, it reopened to tourists, which sent numbers up. 

23 thoughts on “How dangerous is Covid to kids?

  1. Not sure if these places are ‘less individualistic’ rather than more socially minded but it does make sense that those sorts of countries are more likely to elect women. Although the UK have had two female leaders, I think both have had to create carefully crafted (say that with a few beers) personas to ‘fit’. Bumbling Boris on the other hand has not had to do any such thing, although he has played down the ‘friendly bloke at the pub’ image a bit since it worked out less than well for his mate Nige (Farage).

    Liked by 1 person

    • You could, I think, use Maggie Thatcher and Indira Gandhi as exhibits A and B in an argument to demolish the suggestion that egalitarian countries are most likely to elect women leaders. It’s a provocative argument, though, even if it turns out not to hold a universal truth.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh dear, just when my own little bio-hazards return to school. The virus is mutating, more slowly than influenza, they say, but mutating nonetheless. What was true months ago, as with children not falling ill with serious forms of Covid-19, may not be true now. Why do we persist in old ‘truths’ when we’ve learnt more? because it’s convenient to do so?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m n of sure of this, but I don’t think this discussion of kids’ vulnerability is because of mutations but because there’s been time to study the results of the infections kids do get. But that’s pretty tentative. We’ve got so many unknowns in the deck, it’s like we’re playing with blank cards–only the virus can read them; we can’t. May your bio-hazards remain well and strong and happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gosh so much to “unpack” and digest. Scary, scarier, scariest.
    But since we have a Krispy Kreme donut shop five minutes from our house, let me say a word of thanks for the info on the free donut.
    As for the women leaders, I say bravo and the world’s a better place for having them.
    Have a jolly week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sun’s out and it’s 60 degrees. The week’s starting well, thanks. And may whoever’s working at Krispy Kreme when you go in have been told about that offer. I can just imagine a decision getting made, getting publicity, and no one on the working end of the organization ever being told about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have said this quite a few times…people like to say, “Oh it’s not that bad. I didn’t have any symptoms or they were mild.” My question is…what does the long term morbidity of this look like? We haven’t the slightest clue and likely won’t for two, five, or ten plus years to come. Already, we are seeing an influx of unusual diagnoses in unusual populations who had a COVID infection in the last 6-12 months (ranging from asymptomatic to the worst symptoms imaginable). Despite having made *full* recoveries, we are seeing endocarditis/myocarditis, clotting problems (DVT, PE’s, TIAs, and full blown CVAs), breathing problems (shortness of breath, COPD, emphysema) and neurological problems (tinnitus, vertigo, paresthesias, etc) in young populations (20s and up). While correlation is NOT causation – which remains yet to be determined – COVID wreaks havoc on people’s physiology even if they never even had a tickle in their throat. It’s worrying to be sure – and also why I keep my babies at home, away from everyone. I don’t want to find out 5-10 years down the line that they had a COVID infection at one and four respectively, and will struggle with lung problems for the duration of their life because symptoms related to lung tissue scarring which presented much later, and only after a bad infection or some other health issue. It’s very short sighted, naive, ignorant and outright stupid to be anything less than respectful of this novel pathogen which has hurt and harmed so many.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re smart to protect your kids. We’re playing for keeps here, and I can’t help thinking that the knowledge that you did that for them will warm their hearts in years to come. I warms mine right now. Seriously. It’s where love meets wisdom meets determination. So much is unknown, and I’m personally more afraid of the long-term effects than I am by the prospect of dying of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe the correlation is that countries that are more egalitarian and prioritize the well-being of society in general are the ones more likely to be led by women. Which is what TheLeadlessPencil already said, and better too. ( I have taken to dropping down and starting a comment as soon as I encounter something in your post, as I usually forget half of what I wanted to say by the time I’ve read the whole post and the comments.)When I’m done then I finally hit send.
    You did yourself proud with “Chagrin Falls Ohio” which is of course, on the Chagrin River near Cleveland. Most people, especially if typing fast, spell it “Chargin Falls.” (which I did above before proofreading…)
    Yes, kids are getting Covid. Not as much as older folks, but still, as Bojana points out, there is reason to be – careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have the same experience with a lot of comments. Short of writing another post in response, where do I start? But one of two points generally jump out at me and I let myself focus on them. In this case, it’s the Chagrin River, which–yes, I can see that–absolutely does beg to be misspelled. If chagrin were a more commonly used word, it would beg to be the subject of endless jokes. Does that happen much?

      Like

      • I don’t know anyone from Chagrin Falls and have only driven through there a few times (it’s quite scenic and a bit upscale) so most of my experience with it is from local newscasts, and no one has screwed it up or made a joke that I’ve heard, but I’m sure they have made many a typo on their cue cards.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m sure you’re right about that. Years ago, when I worked for a writes organization, a visiting writer let us know before any publicity went out that his last name (which at the moment I can’t remember) was a proofreader’s nightmare and would we please keep an eye out. It didn’t turn into anything that would make a sixth-grader giggle, it was just an unusual misspelling that begged for letters to be flipped around to make the English-reading eye happier.

          He should’ve moved to Chagrin Falls.

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  6. After what our kids have already had to endure, the thought of having a long term side effect after getting COVID frightens one of my 18-year old daughters. My kids and their peers are fighting serious cases of prolonged sadness. They have had to give up so many of the experiences they were eagerly expecting to have during their senior year. “If on top of all that, I lost my sense of smell and couldn’t taste food, I wouldn’t be able to take it.” Food is one of the few remaining pleasures in their lives. I say this with total seriousness.

    Crazy to see Walled Lake MI show up in your post. I grew up in the neighboring town. It’s a very red area. Offering a joint makes perfect sense as bait for attracting residents to get vaccinated. The only thing that might be more effective is a raffle ticket for a giveaway in which you can win a gun rack for your snowmobile.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The picture of a snowmobile with a gun rack did make me laugh. Thanks for that. What you say about young people and Covid absolutely didn’t. That we’ve all been so cavalier about the risks they take horrifies me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is speculation…I had COVID in August. Since then I’ve had two nasty colds, though like most adults I seldom really get colds, and this latest round with salmonella (if I can keep busy I’m willing to live through it). I blame both things on (1) my individual vulnerability to glyphosate and (2) my deconditioning last winter. Too many days when you don’t walk out to work, and suddenly the walk to work seems terribly long.

    I wonder how many other things are being classified as “long COVID” when they may be the long-term effects of lack of exercise, chemical pollution and other ongoing problems? Some of these horrible-sounding symptoms are in fact symptoms of nutrient imbalances. If they’re that and not caused directly by COVID, they’ll be relatively easy to reverse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly what long Covid is, is still being discovered and defined, but based on the experience of someone I know it can be far more than a lack of conditioning. She dragged herself out for the first time and collapsed on the street. She was lucky enough that someone stopped and helped her home–an act of real courage in the middle of the pandemic. If I remember the story correctly, she had to rest her weight on his bike to make it.

      Some people with long Covid report that their symptoms got better after vaccination. A smaller group report that they got worse. Others had no response one way or the other.

      Lots of unknowns here. Lots and lots of them.

      Like

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