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Parents of too young children are troubled by the Omicron surge

Maine business owner Erin Connolly is faced with the difficult decision of making Madeleine, her 3-year old daughter. Connolly's mother cares for Madeleine on the one day per week that she's not in preschool.

It's a time to make cookies, go to the library, and just hang out. Connolly said that the little girl is a strong resister of wearing a mask and that the contagious variant spreads at an alarming rate. She's now wondering "how long it can go on" and "when does it feel too unsafe."

Connolly of West Bath said that she is less concerned about Madeleine's 6-year-old son and the possibility of Madeleine contracting the virus than about the effects separation and illness would have on her grandparents. She is also worried about her parents being infected with the virus.

Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness and require fewer hospitalizations than other variants. However, experts believe it to be more contagious than others. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 718,000 COVID cases have been reported as of Tuesday. Omicron is the current culprit in over 90% of U.S. cases. This is a staggering increase from just 10% two weeks ago.

"The sheer number of infections due to its profound transmissibility means that many more children are infected," Dr. Anthony Fauci stated Wednesday at a White House briefing.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' and the Children's Hospital Association's report, COVID cases among U.S. teens and children nearly doubled over the past two weeks. The final week saw nearly 326,000 cases.

Children have been admitted to hospital with coronavirus in record numbers due to the omicron-fueled spike. From Dec. 27, 2021 to Jan. 2, 20,22, an average 672 children under 17 were admitted daily to hospitals with the coronavirus. This is more than twice the number of the previous week. However, children still make up a small portion of the hospitalized.

Fauci, the country’s most prominent infectious disease doctor, stated that children should be surrounded by vaccinated adults to prevent them contracting the virus. Officials from the Health Department reiterated that face masks can prevent transmissions and should be worn by children aged 2 and over in public settings and groups.

Connolly, 39 years old, had a difficult discussion Tuesday morning with her mother about the problem.

Her mother asked, "Will Madeleine wear a mask?" Connolly said that she tried, but wasn't sure if she would succeed. "I asked Connolly if that meant that Grammy's Thursdays will end. She replied, "Yes, but I don't know if she will." Connolly cried, adding, "Is that true?"

Pfizer announced last month that the two doses of COVID vaccine Pfizer offered for children ages 2-4 didn't provide as much protection. This disappointed parents who had hoped for a COVID vaccine in the new year.

Researchers were disappointed but still plan to resume studies using a third dose of vaccine, according to Dr. Yvonne Maldonado at Stanford University's medical school. Maldonado leads the university's Pfizer vaccine research in children younger than 12.

Maldonado stated that she sympathizes with parents of young children, but advised them to avoid unnecessary travel during the current surge. She also recommended that they make sure their daycare centers, preschools, and other care providers have masks and take other recommended precautions.

Jacob Aki, a Honolulu resident, is considering forgoing his first birthday party in honor of his 10-month-old boy after he has seen the spread of omicron. In his native Hawaiian culture, celebrating the milestone is important. This tradition dates back to a time before measles vaccines were available. It was difficult to turn one's first year of age. They also cancelled plans to visit Canada in the snow. Every sniffle and cough is creating anxiety.

Aki stated that babies usually get sick around this age. "But with everything COVID... anxiety is high."

Heather Cimellaro is a technology teacher in Auburn, Maine. She worries about her identical twin boys, aged three and one year olds. One of their twins has suffered from medical complications due to premature birth. The family regularly travels to Boston to visit a specialist.

Cimellaro stated that COVID could really throw a wrench into those plans.

Cimellaro (33), says that omicron has made her reconsider running errands and library storytime visits with the twins. It also led to her thinking about preschool, which is located in a senior health center. Cimellaro is concerned that the boys might catch COVID and pass it on to their grandparents.

She said, "It's just worry: Am I doing the right things?" That's the truth. I am not an epidemiologist. It's not something I know about. It's almost like the debate with me.

Erin Stanley, Berrien Springs, Michigan said that she and her husband have had to cut back on their social life due to omicron. This was in order for Ralph, their 3-year-old, to be safe. Both are vaccinated, boosted, and they worry about Ralph spreading illness to younger cousins, preschool classmates, grandparents, and great-grandmothers.

They did not see their great-grandmother for Christmas and they skipped a holiday gathering with other relatives.

Stanley stated, "That was distressing." Stanley said, "That was upsetting." It seemed too risky.

Stanley, 35, is a chef at an organic farm and used to take Ralph grocery shopping. It was a trip that he enjoyed and it represented one of his few social interactions besides preschool. She said that masks are not worn by many shoppers, which is why it seems risky.

Three recent scares for the shy boy have resulted in negative COVID testing.

Stanley said that the "swab test" was a very traumatic experience for him. He also added that "virus" as well as "swab", are now part his vocabulary.

She said that he kept saying "I don't want a swab!" "If a vaccine is available for him, we will definitely receive it."

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