Aug 12, 2021 - Podcasts

What we know about kids and COVID

Yesterday, California became the first state to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID. In other states, like Texas and Florida, school districts are fighting state and local government to implement mask mandates for students.

All of this is happening as students are starting to go back to in-person schooling, and as pediatric COVID hospitalizations are on the rise.

  • Plus, the Delta variant is catching up with air travel.
  • And, calls for better conditions for migrant teens in U.S. custody in Texas.

Guests: Axios' Joann Muller, Tina Reed, and Fadel Allassan.

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, and Ben O'Brien. 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 Thursday, August 12th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: what we know about kids and COVID right now. Plus, calls for better conditions for migrant teens in U.S. custody in Texas. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the Delta variant is catching up with air travel.

NIALA: We started this summer talking about unruly airline passengers. And I have to say -- the summer is still not going well for airline companies. If you're planning on hopping a flight this month, we wanted to give you a sense of what's going on. Axios’ Joann Muller has been hearing the Delta variant may be slowing things down in a big way. Hi, Joann.


NIALA: Joann, first, I just want to start with how messy things have been for airlines. I'm thinking of Spirit Airlines last week that had to cancel more than half of their flights over several days. What was going on there?

JOANN: Oh, what wasn't going on. It really was just a-a perfect storm of bad weather, low staffing, computer outages. It just all snowballed. And there really just isn't enough slack in the system, particularly for a low cost airline like Spirit.

NIALA: And so if we're starting to see a decrease in leisure air travel because of the Delta variant, is that actually a good thing for companies?

JOANN: Well, I think we'll start to see that happening in the fall. And that is a good thing for airlines because they really need some time to reset and catch up. Anybody who's flown this summer has realized just how difficult it is. There's a lot of schedule changes. The lines are long, people are on edge. And it's just been a little bit too much.

NIALA: And how does that translate into earnings for a company like Southwest Airlines and their business?

JOANN: Just yesterday, Southwest Airlines, uh, issued a-aa earnings warning and said they might not be profitable in the third quarter. And they're the first to acknowledge that they're starting to see a slowdown in, uh, bookings and a rise in cancellations, uh, which they are attributing to the rise in COVID-19 cases. So I think we're probably going to see a little bit more of this, which is kind of a shame because I think airlines were pleased that the leisure traveler came back so quickly and they were counting on the business travel, and international travel, to start picking up in the fall. And, uh, there are now some serious questions over whether that's really going to happen.

NIALA: We’re also seeing some airlines this week mandate vaccinations for their staff. How is that affecting travelers?

JOANN: We'll have to see, but if passengers are feeling anything-that-passage-makes passengers feel more secure, more safe on an airline, is going to be good for business. But just like, you know, the general public, there's going to be some controversy over this. Not everyone wants to get a vaccine apparently.

NIALA: So what does all of this mean for travelers right now?

JOANN: Air travelers are going to continue to need to pack their patience. They need to be smart about where they're going and what they're doing when they get there. And I did get an interesting tip from The Points Guy, the travel advisory website, and they said, use your frequent flyer miles as much as you can, because there's no penalty if you end up canceling a flight that you booked with points. Whereas if you cancel a flight that you booked with cash, you may not get a refund.

NIALA: Axios’ transportation correspondent and coauthor of the What's Next newsletter, Joann Muller. Thank you, Joann.

JOANN: Thanks. Niala.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, we're back with a reality check on kids and COVID.


NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo. Yesterday, California became the first state to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or get tested weekly for Covid. In other states, like Texas and Florida, school districts are fighting state and local government to implement mask mandates for students. All of this is happening as students are starting to go back to in-person schooling -- AND as pediatric Covid hospitalizations are on the rise. The flurry of scary headlines about kids and covid recently have parents, schools, all of us worried -- so we wanted to get the facts from Axios’ healthcare editor Tina Reed - Hi Tina.

TINA REED: Hi Niala.

NIALA: Tina, how many kids are actually being hospitalized from home?

TINA: So the numbers vary throughout the country and I think that's really important to remember is that the numbers are higher in areas where vaccination rates are lower. They've found anywhere from 1.5% to 3.5% of total hospitalizations depending on the region are among children. So we are talking about very low numbers.

NIALA: And again, even as it's impacting children, it's still impacting them at a much lower rate than adults.

TINA: So that's right. So infectious disease experts say that parents shouldn't be panicking, but they should be taking action because serious illness is a potential consequence of a kid getting Covid.

NIALA: Do we know when we'll see approval of Covid vaccines for younger children?

TINA: So Pfizer has said that they are going to be applying for an EUA as early as September. So it does seem like shortly after the start of the school season, that we may have some good news.

NIALA: And when you see all of the headlines around children, do they seem alarming to you?

TINA: They seem alarming. And I think that part of the reason for that is it is scary to think that a virus that once didn't seem to impact kids as much is now seeming to impact kids more than it did before. We're still getting the data on that. Infectious disease experts say that's not completely unexpected for a virus that's evolving to impact children differently over time. And I think it's just a good reminder that people should be taking it seriously.

NIALA: Axios’ Tina Reed with this reality check. Thank you.

TINA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: Migrant teens in U S custody have been held in deplorable conditions at two Texas facilities. That's according to a lawsuit against the Biden administration filed this week. Here to catch us up on the claims is associate news editor, Fadel Allassan. Fadel, what’s in this lawsuit?

FADEL ALLASSAN: So, the lawsuit basically claims that teens have been subject to really poor conditions and have suffered from mental health problems and that they've had prolonged stays at the facilities. For example, some of the children have said they've had panic attacks, the authorities have had to watch them to make sure that they're not harming themselves. Two brothers claimed that they were held there for 65 days, despite the fact that they had a relative in the state who was willing to care for them

NIALA: What does HHS say about all of this?

FADEL: They said in the statement to Axios that they can't specifically talk about what's been filed in this lawsuit, but that they do see themselves as having a responsibility for providing safety, appropriate care… And they said that at both sites children have received educational and recreational activities, and that they have access to medical care and laundry services and that they can call family, et cetera. And this has all been on the backdrop of criticism for the Biden administration, because of how he's handled the surge in young people coming across the border.

NIALA: Axios’ Fadel Allassan. Thank you, Fadel.

FADEL: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: Before we go today: there’ve been some BIG reactions to the naming of two new Jeopardy hosts: executive producer Mike Richards and actor Mayim Bialik. Which angered fans of Levar Burton, who had also guest-hosted the show after Alex Trebek’s death. But don’t worry, it seems like Levar will be just fine. Before the new hosts were announced, he tweeted: “​​I have said many times over these past weeks that no matter the outcome, I’ve won. The outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and fans alike has been incredible! If love is the ultimate blessing and I believe that it is, I am truly blessed beyond measure.” That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on Twitter. You can also text me 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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