St. J Pediatrician Says Mental Health Impact Of COVID On Kids At ‘Epidemic Levels’

Dr. Joshua Kantrowitz (File Photo)

St. Johnsbury pediatrician Dr. Josh Kantrowitz offered his perspective on the COVID-19 Delta variant to the St. Johnsbury School Board this week.

Kantrowitz could not attend Monday night’s board meeting in person but did submit a letter that summed up the complicated situation the board is currently dealing with in 13 simple words.

“Viruses adapt and we need to try to stay ahead of this one,” wrote Kantrowitz.

The school has already announced that masks will be required at the start of the school year due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. The school board and Superintendent Dr. Brian G. Ricca have agreed to review the policy on a regular basis as the virus situation changes.

Kantrowitz, whose practice is based at St. Johnsbury Pediatrics on Hospital Hill, also addressed several areas of concern about the spread of the virus and its effect on children.

“While we all thought there was a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, currently the delta variant of COVID 19 is hitting us hard,” wrote Kantrowitz. “It is more contagious and perhaps more dangerous than prior strains of the virus.”

Kantrowitz wrote that physicians are seeing more significant illness from COVID-19 in children and that hospitalization rates due to the Delta variant in pediatric hospitals are on the rise around the country.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty on what the next few months will bring,” wrote Kantrowitz, who also expressed concern about the social and mental health impact of the virus on children.

“Children have been less physically fit, they are spending more time on screens, and the mental health impact is at epidemic levels,” wrote Kantrowitz. “Academically, many children have struggled with distance or hybrid learning. Getting back to in-person school is one of the most important ways to make things better for our children.”

Kantrowitz also made several recommendations in his letter for the school board to consider that include the subject of masks.

“The main method of transmission is from respiratory droplets that come from our mouth and nose,” wrote Kantrowitz. “This risk of transmission increases when we are inside. Masking is the simplest way to prevent the spread of these droplets…Every layer of protection that prevents the spread of COVID19 keeps us safer.”

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