Oklahoma doctors are sounding the alarm on how COVID-19's Delta variant is impacting children ahead of the start of the 2021 school year.
News 9 contributor Scott Mitchell hosted a panel discussion Monday evening on his Facebook page that included four local physicians; Dr. Larry Bookman, Dr. Dwight Sublett, Dr. David Chansolme and Dr. John Amitage.
Most of the group's discussion was on the need for more concise, unified and unbiased messaging around COVID-19.
Bookman said it is important for people to know all of the statistics but acknowledged it is hard to get that information.
"Too many people just look at death as the only percentage. No, there are people who are suffering and especially our kids who are suffering, and yet there is very little in the news about that," said Bookman.
Another major topic was kids and how COVID-19 is impacting them.
By the end of this week, more than half of the major school districts in the Oklahoma City metro area will be back in school.
Right now, schools can't put mask mandates in place though there is an effort to repeal that law.
Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for the vaccine, so these physicians said masks are the best line of defense for those who are not vaccinated, but it's up to parents to decide what they feel is best.
"I think parents need to stand up for the rights of their kids both ways. I understand when parents say, 'it is my right, my child shouldn't have to wear a mask.' On the other hand, do no harm. Do no harm to your neighbor (or) to the other children," Bookman said.
Sublett said in the discussion, he is already seeing what appears to be an upward trend in children getting sick from COVID-19. He spoke briefly about some of the side effects that can occur after a child is sick with COVID, things like fatigue and brain fog.
"Some of the data I am seeing, after about eight weeks, it seems to be waning some, but how much not clear and how severe we don't know. Of course, the rules going back into school this year are more lax and that is worrisome," Sublett said.
Bookman said hospitals are once again starting to fill up and this time with more children.
"I have talked with people at Texas Children's, which is one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the country, and they are overrun. They are not taking transfers from other hospitals because they are overrun," he said.
Chansolme is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and works for the Integris hospital system. He said having enough nurses on hand is one of the biggest challenges they are facing right now.
"Every hospital in the Integris system is full. I have heard that some in hospitals around the state around up to 50% of bed capacity of staffed beds is COVID beds. Based on data from the CDC, only about 1 in 5 Oklahoma kids (ages) 12 through 17 are fully vaccinated, and kids under 12 can't get the shot yet," said Chansolme.
Click here to see the full discussion.