New York Spotlights Rare Complications in Covid-Struck Children

A child plays at Liberty State Park, with the Statue of Liberty stands in the background, in Jersey City on Saturday after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reopened parks, which were closed for over a month because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Courthouse News photo/Nick Rummell)

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York leaders joined European doctors on Tuesday in addressing the mysterious set of symptoms that is appearing in some children who contracted the novel coronavirus. 

“Even though children are by and large mildly affected … there can be situations where they are more severely affected” by the virus, said Oxiris Barbot, New York City health commissioner, speaking Tuesday to reporters. 

New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, has now seen 15 cases of children presenting with a multisystem inflammatory syndrome. All 15 were hospitalized in the last few weeks, on or after April 17, The New York Times reported this morning. 

Four of the children tested positive for Covid-19, while six had antibodies for the virus. Though there have been no fatalities among the cohort, five patients needed the support of a mechanical ventilator.

New York City doctors were directed on Monday to keep an eye out for young patients with the symptoms. Pediatricians in Italy, Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain have also reported similar cases in their countries. 

Generally the children present with prolonged high fever that lasts several days, red eyes, bright lips and so-called “strawberry tongue,” or a tongue that is bright and red in color, Barbot said. Other symptoms include rash, abdominal pain and vomiting, and are normally associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare illness that causes inflammation in the blood vessels of young children. 

Parents are instructed to call their doctor right away if their child shows symptoms. 

“As the science becomes available, our guidance needs to adapt to that,” Barbot said, highlighting the many unknowns of the virus.  

Both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo swiped Tuesday at President Trump, who they say has not provided the state with the federal help it desperately needs to fight the virus and stay on its feet financially. 

“Every day President Trump resembles more and more Herbert Hoover, who ignored the Great Depression” and failed in the basic responsibility to protect the people he serves, de Blasio said. Trump, who himself hails from hard-hit Queens, “seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back,” the mayor added.

Cuomo, speaking separately but also in Manhattan for his own daily Covid-19 press conference, said government dysfunction in Washington is unacceptable. 

“What government does today will literally determine how many people live and how many die,” he said. 

Cuomo also blasted Trump’s statements that “blue-state bailouts” during the pandemic are unfair to Republicans. Some states that have been especially hard hit by Covid-19, including New York and California, are decidedly Democratic. 

“If you starve the states, how do you expect the states to be able to fund this entire reopening plan?” Cuomo asked. 

He also said it’s in Trump’s best interest to help all states in the next package of aid legislation.

“The congressional members from New York cannot pass another bill that does not help the people they represent,” Cuomo said. “If the president doesn’t figure out how to bridge this divide, he will have no legislation. And if he has no legislation, he will have failed as a leader … and more importantly, this nation will suffer.” 

Cuomo also announced that the state will partner with the Gates Foundation to “convene experts and develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal” in education, though he offered few details. 

“When we reopen schools, let’s open a better school and let’s open a smarter education system,” Cuomo said, calling for improved remote learning and technology access.  

Citing confusion over his guidelines to New Yorkers on wearing face coverings, Cuomo said his daughter, Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, suggested to him he had not properly communicated his message. 

The 25-year-old whose mother is human rights activist Kerry Kennedy joined Governor Cuomo at Monday’s press conference to help announce a statewide contest for a 30-second public service announcement that encourages face coverings. Videos should be submitted by May 30 and shared and tagged #NewYorkTough on social media. 

“Maybe I just haven’t been persuasive or effective enough in my communication skills,” Cuomo said Tuesday in a rare moment of self-reflection, regarding the mask guidelines. 

The governor had called in mid-April for people to wear face coverings in public when they can’t socially distance, but not if they’re walking down an empty sidewalk — a message that suggests people could be donning, then removing, then donning their masks as they walk.

“You’re now at an intersection, and there are people at the intersection, and you’re going to be in proximity to other people? Put the mask on,” Cuomo had said.

But public health experts say that once a mask is on your face, you shouldn’t touch it until you are back home and can carefully remove it, because the outside is considered contaminated. 

New York City and the state’s virus-tracking indicators were mostly down Monday, though the number of people who tested positive in New York City ticked up slightly, as did statewide confirmed fatalities. 

New York City only uses numbers from its 11 public hospitals for the ICU tracking statistics it shares, a practice de Blasio defended to a Staten Island Advance reporter Tuesday by saying the public hospital numbers provide an accurate average. 

“The public hospital indicators are the most consistent and they tend to reflect what we’re seeing from all 56 hospitals,” de Blasio said. The tracking data is “meant to be a trendline for the whole city.”

Staten Island has no public hospital, which technically leaves an entire borough out of the official Covid-19 ICU tracking system. Staten Island had 12,169 cases as of Monday. 

New York state now has 321,192 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 19,645 confirmed deaths. New York City has 171,723 cases and 13,724 confirmed deaths. The Big Apple also tracks and publishes “probable” Covid-19 deaths, which stood at 5,383 as of early Tuesday afternoon. 

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