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Virus Expert Issues This Outbreak Warning

Unvaccinated kids are at huge risk, says Scott Gottlieb.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

When virus experts call the current COVID-19 situation a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," they are not just speaking about those adults who refuse to get vaccinated; they are talking about kids under 12 who do not yet have a vaccine approved for them to take. Delta is attacking many of them like fish in a barrel. To provide some context about how many kids are getting sick—and if Delta is, as some doctors fear, making kids "sicker, quicker"—Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, appeared on Face the Nation to offer some life-saving advice. Read on for all 6 points—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Virus Expert Said Cases May be Peaking in the South but There Are "Hard Weeks Ahead"—Especially for Unvaccinated Kids

Florida Health and FDEM COVID-19 Mobile Testing Facility. Walk-up coronavirus testing site at Miami Beach, Florida

Gottlieb says the data is "showing across the South right now, the RT, the rate of transmission is below one, which means you have a contracting epidemic across the south, though there are still very hard weeks ahead because they're still going to continue to accrue more hospitalizations and there's extreme pressure on those healthcare systems. But there is evidence that the epidemic is starting to slow and that day over day cases are starting to decline. And that's showing up in the natural national trends now Florida, which has been the epicenter of the epidemic in this country. If you look across different age categories in Florida, every age category shows the declining number of cases day over day, except for school aged kids, kids ages six to 19. That's the only category that's still expanding and expanding very quickly because what's happening is, they're opening schools earlier in the South schools open earlier in the South against the backdrop of still a lot of prevalence and the infection's getting into schools and it's proving to be hard to control the schools."


Virus Expert Said Here's How Many Kids Could Get Delta

Little girl is sick using oxygen mask on her face laying in bed at hospital.

When it comes to kids: "We could have 10 million to 20 million cases right now," asked the host. "Well, there's 50 million school-aged children," said Gottlieb. "We've diagnosed a little over 4 million, about 8 million have been vaccinated. So the question is how many kids overall have been exposed to this virus and develop some measure of immunity? It could be as high as 25 million or more when you start doing the math around that 4.2 million who are known to have been infected. We're certainly diagnosing less than one in four cases. In the peak of the epidemic in the winter, we were turning over probably about one in four cases in adults. We always knew the fraction of cases that were getting diagnosed in kids was less with doing less routine screening and children, children get milder disease on the whole. So again, they don't present to their pediatricians for testing, but the ascertainment rate right now may be even lower with this Delta variant." Gottlieb said schools should be testing for Delta once or twice a week.


Virus Expert Said Florida is a "Harbinger" of Things to Come

Miami seaside photos Miami city

"Delta's a very contagious variant," said Gottlieb of the cases in Florida. "So I think that this is a harbinger of the challenges that we're going to face nationally, as schools reopened, the schools could become focal points of community transmission and can become environments that aren't safe for children if we can't control very large outbreaks from happening in those settings."

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Virus Expert Said Here's What the "Full Approval" for Pfizer May Mean for You

Doctor holding Pfizer Biontech vaccine against coronavirus COVID disease

Pfizer is expected to be "fully approved" by the FDA by this week, maybe even tomorrow. "I'm on the board of Pfizer, there were reports that it's going to be approved as early as tomorrow. I have no reason to believe that those reports aren't accurate," said Gottlieb. "I do believe that once the vaccine is fully approved, that's going to give more impetus to some businesses, schools, to mandate vaccination. They've been waiting for a full approval so they'll they feel there'll be on stronger legal ground to mandate vaccination in that setting. I also think that there's certain consumers that have been waiting for this milestone. waiting for the full approval and an indication that the FDA has done evaluating the dataset to give them more confidence about using the vaccine. So I would expect to see some uptick in vaccine utilization, either from voluntary vaccination, by consumers who have been waiting for full approval or from some businesses that now we're going to move forward with vaccine mandates."

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Virus Expert Warned More Kids are Getting Sick

Girl sleeping with sickness on the bed

"We don't have an accurate sense of that number right now—about 4.2 million kids have been diagnosed with COVID. But the presumption is that we're diagnosing just a small fraction of the kids who are ultimately contracting  the virus—it may be as low as one in 10 to one in 20 infections in kids is being turned over right now. So there's been far more infection among children than what we're diagnosing, because most of the infection is asymptomatic or mild and mild disease that doesn't necessarily present to a pediatrician for testing. And this is really a critical question because it gets to the heart of whether or not this new Delta variant is more pathogenic and children. We see rising numbers of hospitalizations and ICU admissions among kids. The question is, is that because this is a more dangerous variant and children, or are we just infecting a whole lot more kids? So we're not really getting an accurate sense of the denominator. We're only seeing the numerator of kids who are presenting with more severe disease. I suspect it's the latter. I suspect that the number of kids who are getting into trouble with COVID, hasn't really changed with this Delta variant. The reason why we're seeing rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions among kids is because we're infecting a whole lot more kids with it."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Young woman taking a vaccine from her doctor.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek