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Dr. Nguyen Discusses COVID-19 on TownHall Discussion with WBAL Radio

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By:

Laura Tenbus

October 6, 2020
With some students learning in school and others learning at home this year, communities are struggling to find a balance between stopping the spread of COVID-19 and meeting the developmental needs of school-aged children. Theresa Nguyen, MD, Assistant Chairman of Pediatrics at GBMC, joined WBAL NewsRadio’s Coronavirus Townhall to talk about the challenges of virtual learning and urge parents to get their children vaccinated for the flu.

The impacts of remote learning have been both emotional and physical. Children are not socializing in the ways they need to be, and parents are dealing with the extra burden of guiding their children through school while trying to work. There has also been a significant decrease in children’s physical activity. “The second coming epidemic may be obesity,” said Dr. Nguyen, “children simply aren’t as active because they are sitting in front of the computer so many hours a day. They need to be having at least one hour of physical activity per day.”

When asked whether children should be going back to school, Dr. Nguyen replied: “Absolutely. I’m emphatic about that.” She stressed that safety measures such as physical distancing, masking, and handwashing are critical in a school setting, but that children should be learning in person if infection rates in the community are low. This is especially true for elementary-aged children and younger. “It is really difficult for preschoolers and elementary-aged children to engage with a teacher virtually. Parents have to be involved, which is causing them a lot of distress while trying to work,” she explained.

Dr. Nguyen acknowledged that there are risks to returning to school, but clarified that they are lower for children age 10 and younger. “The good news is that the majority of kids only experience mild symptoms,” she expressed. “Studies have shown that children under 10 are less likely to get infected and get milder disease if they do. They are also less likely to spread the virus.” She also pointed out that some daycare centers have been open throughout the pandemic to care for the children of essential workers, and there have been no large outbreaks originating from those centers. “We have seen that even very young children are able to follow safety guidelines when shown how to do so,” said Dr. Nguyen.

The conversation then shifted to influenza and the colds typically seen during the fall and winter months. “Children and adults should be getting their flu shots right now! They’re available in doctors’ offices and in many retail pharmacies,” she advised. “It takes two to four weeks for your body to build immunity to the flu after receiving the vaccine, so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible.” GBMC Health Partners is offering drive-thru flu vaccinations for primary care and specialty care patients at Farmhouse Hill on GBMC’s campus. This flu vaccine program is open to all patients of GBMC Health Partners over the age of 6 and will take place through November. Children under age 5 should go to their pediatrician to be vaccinated.

Because the symptoms of COVID-19 are so similar to the flu and the common cold, it is especially important to consult your pediatrician whenever your child becomes sick. “This year is different from other years. In the past, we would have said ‘this sounds like a cold with mild symptoms, so your child can go to school unless there is a fever.’ Now we’re going to be very cautious. If they have any symptoms – cough, runny nose, fever – you need to err on the side of caution and keep your children home.”
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