COVID-19 and children: State doctor weighs in on youth sports

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As state health officials come up with reopening guidelines during the pandemic, lots of people are wondering about sports, and whether kids will get a green light to play them in the fall. KRQE News 13 asked the state’s lead doctor about it on Friday.

Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase explained data he’s seen about COVID-19 and children so far in New Mexico, is encouraging. However, he warned, there are still a lot of unknowns at this point. “I think one of the great mysteries for me in this whole pandemic, is what is the role of children?” Dr. Scrase said.

“It is really positive news that we have 13 percent of our cases are in kids and there’s been no deaths, and so that’s positive news,” said Dr. Scrase. “It means there’s something about the way the virus works in kids that’s clearly different than the way it works in middle-aged individuals, which is very different than the way it works in older folks, so there’s reason for optimism, but we just don’t know that transmission piece just yet,” he added.

Dr. Scrase explained health advisors are still learning more about how much children spread the virus to others. But it’s a hard thing to study he said, because with school closures and social distancing, kids aren’t really coming into close contact with a lot of people like they used to.

When it comes to youth sports, Albuquerque Public Schools earlier this week announced some activities can resume at the end of the month, but they’ll be limited to individual or small group workouts and no games. Only high-schoolers will be allowed to resume, not middle-schoolers.

In the Center for Disease Control guidelines for youth sports, the CDC states older kids might be better at social distancing and avoiding sharing equipment and water bottles.

Dr. Scrase said they’re paying close attention to places like Europe, where schools are open year-round, to get a better idea of how to move forward. “There will be more evidence about how this affects children so that we can decide as the time is closer what’s the safest thing for families in New Mexico,” he said.

There’s no timeline on when the state will decide if youth sporting events are a go again and if any fans will be allowed to attend. “Our first priority is you know, people’s safety and saving lives, so that’s what we’re looking at,” said Dr. Scrase.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, McKinley County has the most COVID-19 cases among kids and teens with 440. San Juan County has 204, and Bernalillo County has 208 confirmed cases with kids up to the age of 19.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resources

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