Jul 21, 2021 - Podcasts

The latest on kids and COVID

As the Delta variant spreads and COVID safety measures loosen across much of the country, many are starting to think about the fall and how kids will stay safe when they return to crowded classrooms.

  • Plus, finding housing for reunited migrant families.
  • And, fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb.

Guests: Axios' Marisa Fernandez, Stef Kight, and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, July 21st. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: finding housing for reunited migrant families. Plus, fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the latest on kids and Covid.

As the Delta variant spreads and Covid safety measures loosen across much of the country, many are starting to think about the fall and how kids will stay safe when they return to crowded classrooms.

Marisa Fernandez is one of Axios’ healthcare reporters and is here to catch us up on the latest with young kids and Covid. Hey, Marisa.


NIALA: I think the biggest question that parents have is when can we expect Covid vaccines to be available for children under 12?

MARISA: Right, there's a lot going on in this space. Pfizer and Moderna are very, very close to releasing the data between eleven and five-year-olds. And then the cohorts younger than that will come shortly after. So five to two and two and younger. But what we're seeing is that the data could come as early as September, and the companies have confirmed that they will file for emergency use authorization with the FDA very shortly after. It could be as soon as the fall or we could be, you know, pretty much before the holiday season.

NIALA: Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics did release some guidance for schools reopening. Assuming that there isn't a vaccine yet, what are these updated guidelines?

MARISA: So the AAP essentially released the statement taking a more firm position than the CDC on in-person schooling. So they're recommending that people over the age of two wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Essentially why the AAP decided to do that is that there are still a significant proportion of the student population that is still not eligible to get vaccinated even if we have an EUA for teens and adolescents under Pfizer currently. No one from the Biden administration has publicly criticized the recommendations, but it could contribute to the already confusing district by district plans that we're seeing.

NIALA: The last question I wanted to ask you about is one of the biggest mysteries of the pandemic and that's the long-term impacts of Covid. The NIH recently announced they're launching a study to look at how kids in particular are affected by long Covid. What are they hoping to learn?

MARISA: You know, eight million kids have gotten Covid and they're just trying to figure out what that means, the different types of ways in which that kids are experiencing symptoms that are more obvious than others, like the shortness of breath and the tired and the fatigue. It's just more or less just trying to figure out how kids are affected with Covid in general as well.

NIALA: Marisa Fernandez is one of Axios’ healthcare reporters. Thanks, Marisa.

MARISA: Thank you.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, we're back with the housing problems for newly reunited migrant families.

Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. President Biden has started making good on his campaign promise to reunite separated migrant families. But many of those families have no place to live once they've been reunited. Axios’ Stef Kight has this story. Hey Stef.

STEF KIGHT: Hi, Niala.

NIALA: Why don’t some of these families have a place to live?

STEF: There are a bunch of reasons. First of all, I think it's important to remember that the zero tolerance policy, which caused these separations, has been ended for more than three years now. So a lot of time has passed. A lot of kids were released to relatives who were already in the U.S. or to foster families. And sometimes those relatives or foster families won't have space for a whole family. They were able to take in one migrant kid or two, but don't have room for full families for the long turn.

NIALA: How many families are we talking about?

STEF: According to the data that I've been provided from some sources, currently more than a third of migrant families who have been reunited have been without a home. And they're only been around 35 families who have been reunified so far, but there are potentially more than 2,000 families who still need to be reunited. And some of them, the administration has had trouble locating.

NIALA: What is the Biden administration doing to try to help them?

STEF: It's unclear right now. Right now, this is really falling on NGOs, who are the people really on the ground, caring for these families, making sure that they get housing assistance when needed. One thing I’m watching, though, is there was a request for information about a potential contract that would create more of a system for caring for these families. This is still early in the process and the details aren't clear, but that was posted on Tuesday. And that's something that I'm looking at.

NIALA: Stef Kight is a politics reporter at Axios focused on immigration. Thanks, Stef.

STEF: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: This month marks the anniversary of the first atomic bomb explosion ever. And that 1945 Trinity test affected many Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in Southern New Mexico, causing cancer and death for some. But at the time of the explosion, the communities weren't told of the risk. Now there's a renewed call for compensation for victims and their families. We're joined by Axios’ race and justice reporter, and our very own forgotten history correspondent, Russell Contreras. Good morning, Russ.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Great to be with you.

NIALA: Russ, why have these groups in the New Mexico area been left out of radiation compensation that we know has gone to other groups in the U.S.?

RUSS: When this bomb went off on July 16th, 1945, at 5:29 in the morning, people at the time didn't know what happened. The U.S. army later would say that this was an ammunition explosion, and people didn't understand the effects, and the repercussions, of this bomb. It was not until years later that when generations of families suffer from rare cancers, that they begin to put two and two together that say this bomb has had repercussions that goes back years, more than three quarters of a century.

NIALA: Can you tell us what happened to people, how they got sick?

RUSS: When this bomb went off, the few days afterwards, it rained black rain. Cows turned white, which meant they were burned, and they were radiated. And then these poor areas use those cows to milk them and then feed this poison radiated milk to their infants. So, the DNA of these residents were altered for life, for generations.

NIALA: You talked to some of those people, what did they say to you?

RUSS: I talked to Tina Cordova, she's one of the activists there, who's been trying to bring attention to the people of Tularosa and Mescalero Apache.

TINA CORDOVA: We were never given the opportunity to do anything, to protect ourselves before or after, okay? What we want as downwinders is number one recognition by the U.S. government that they did this to us, that they, that they came here, that they performed this test and that they walked away and left us for 70 years to deal with it on our own. We want inclusion in the Radiation Exposure Compensation act. That was set up in 1990 to compensate people downwind of the Nevada test site. It's been paying claims since then. We were the first downwinders, there would be no Nevada test site if it weren't for the Trinity test site. They learned that they could never do this again in an area that was populated.

RUSS: Now, the difference, Niala, between this population and those populations is the Nevada folks, the downwinders who suffered from radiation nuclear test, are largely white. The people in New Mexico are largely Native American and Hispanic. And now that bill is set to sunset in 2022. So now there's a race against time, not just to extend the law, but to finally include the people of New Mexico in it, next to the first atomic bomb experiment in history of the world.

NIALA: Russell Contreras is Axios’ race and justice reporter. Thank you, Russell.

RUSS: You're welcome.

NIALA: There are so many stories of how our life has changed because of the pandemic. Here’s one you might not have heard: American toddlers have been watching so much of the British cartoon Peppa Pig...that they’re starting to speak like British kids.

CHILD: How clever. Daddy - are you okay? Are you okay?

NIALA: Yup that kid is American. Peppa Pig was the world's second most in-demand cartoon for the past year. Parents on social media call it the Peppa effect - saying their American preschoolers are talking about petrol stations, Father Christmas - and the telly.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach me via text at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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