State official offers tips to keep children safe from COVID

By Marie Y. Lemelle

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first non-travel case of coronavirus was confirmed in California on Feb. 26 last year, and the first U.S. death was reported three days later.

This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, confirmed the devastating milestone of 500,000 dead from COVID-19 in the United States.

Based on a study led by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, another 90,000 Americans are expected to die by June 1.

A report by the Black Women Rally for Action – Los Angeles County stated that Black COVID-19 deaths decreased 62.16% from the highest weekly levels in January and Black COVID-19 cases decreased 75.78% in the most rapid decline in Los Angeles County since the pandemic began.

The organization releases statistics every Wednesday and believes that there are several potential factors that have led to the rapid decline in new cases recently.

The positive behavior changes could be the result of the desire to avoid new, more contagious variants, news of a lack of hospital beds, post-holiday social distancing, more people wearing masks and adopting other protective measures and the desire to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Vaccinations are helping to decrease new cases and normalcy may be achieved by year’s end; however, mask wearing is projected to continue until 2022. Wearing a face mask is a challenge for many people, especially for children. The CDC is clear that children aged 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household, including inside someone else’s home.

The CDC outlines the exception to the face mask rule by exempting children younger than 2 years old; anyone who has a disability that prevents them from safely wearing a mask or those who cannot wear a mask because of a workplace health safety or job duty risk.

Reports indicate that there has been a 16% spike in child coronavirus cases.  Johnson & Johnson has developed a single dose COVID-19 vaccine, and it is expected to make a difference according to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“COVID-19 positivity rates and deaths are trending slightly upward in Los Angeles County,” said California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris. “As of Feb. 12, we have lost 46,002 precious lives in the California, with 18,658 of those coming from Los Angeles County.

“While the COVID-19 surge/spike is easing across the state, we are not out of the woods yet. COVID is still prevalent in our communities and we must keep our guard up.”

Fauci recently said children could get the vaccination by the start of school in September. Until the vaccines are available for children, Harris says, “Taking the time to talk to children and explain why they can’t get the vaccine yet is important. Help them understand that the vaccine needs to be tested to make sure it is safe before they give it to the public. First it was tested for adults and now it is being tested for kids.”

Beyond that, Harris advises families with children to double down on safety basics with the five W’s.

“I know we’ve all heard this over and over again, but we urge Californians over the age of 2 to wear a mask at all times when outside their home,” she said. The other four W’s are:

• Watch your distance and stay six feet apart from people outside your household, especially older family members and those with chronic health conditions. You can still take a walk or a hike, just wear a mask and keep a safe distance around others.

• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Wait to see your loved ones. It is important to minimize mixing households to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

• When it’s your turn, get vaccinated. While children under the age of 16 aren’t eligible, it will be important for other members of the household to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. You can find out when it is your turn by communicating with your doctor or health provider. Once available statewide, sign up for notifications on the state’s new website, My Turn.

“Parents should always lead by example and follow the latest public health guidance,” Harris said. “It’s also important to have honest conversations with your child about COVID-19 so they can make sense of why these harm reduction behaviors are so important.

“The CDC has created a helpful guide for having these types of discussions.”

Parents and caretakers should know that the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children who test positive for COVID-19 generally have milder symptoms including fever and cough.

Vomiting, sore belly, dizziness, rash and diarrhea have also been reported. If your child has a fever, cough, trouble breathing, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rash or dizziness call your doctor immediately. Your doctor will determine whether those symptoms can be treated at home, require a telehealth or an in-office visit.

Go to the emergency room if your child looks very sick to you, is having breathing problems, looks confused or sleepy, is dizzy or has very bad stomach pain.

Harris said parents can keep themselves safe from contagion when caring for their children with COVID-19 by wearing a cloth face covering (or face mask) while tending to your sick child; using separate dishes, glasses, cups, and eating utensils and not sharing those with other household members.

After use, run them through the dishwasher or wash with very hot soapy water; be sure to use separate bedding and towels and do not share those with infected individuals.

“Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good air flow,” Harris said. “You can open a window or turn on an air filter or air conditioner. All household members should wash their hands well and often.”

Californians can get more information about prevention at

Marie Y. Lemelle is the founder of and a film producer. She can be reached at Follow her on Instagram @platinumstarpr.

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