Guest Columnist David Gottsegen: Pediatrician: The dangers of COVID for children are real

  • David N. Gottsegen Gazette file photo

Published: 1/4/2022 2:22:15 PM
Modified: 1/4/2022 2:21:37 PM

As a pediatrician who has cared for countless children with COVID-19 for the last two years, I agree with the title of John Montanari’s letter in the Dec. 30 Gazette, that “COVID is driving us crazy,” and that the tone of discussion about vaccines and mask mandates could be dialed down a notch.

But he blames as culprits “the chilling echoes of historical influences” of a letter writer’s objection to a column which was filled with falsehoods about the COVID virus, and which cited unvaccinated people as the main source for the spread of the new omicron variant. (True) If he is really so worried about COVID-related vitriol, why does he fail to mention the well-organized campaign of death threats sent to hardworking volunteer school committee and public health board members around the country, including towns like South Hadley and Holyoke?

Mr. Montanari turns for his expert advice to Jay Bhatacharya and Martin Kulldorf, authors of the notorious “Great Barrington Declaration,” which pushed for allowing COVID to spread among the young, and somehow “protecting” the elderly, in an effort to achieve herd immunity. This proclamation was endorsed by Donald Trump but denounced by every reputable public health expert in the U.S and Canada, including the 12,000 members of the Infectious Disease Society of America.

I wonder where those places are where he says people are gathering “in close proximity and unmasked… even in large stadiums” and “their world is not ending.” Is it Sweden, where the Great Barrington idea was tried (no lockdowns, few masks) — where the COVID death rate of 142.5/100,000 population has been about 10 times higher than neighboring Finland and Norway, which had strict quarantines and mask mandates?

Is he thinking of Austria, Switzerland, or the Netherlands, where there are now national lockdowns in place and consideration of mandatory vaccine mandates?

Or largely maskless Florida, where COVID cases are at new high?

Are all those studies showing maskless sporting events and political rallies as “super spreader” events simply made up?

Finally, Mr. Montanari writes that it is “nuts” to require high school athletes to wear masks, since “school children” are “practically invulnerable when it comes to COVID.”

Tell that to the child I have cared for with multi-system disease which damaged his heart, another young child who had fevers for a month, several young people who experienced all food smelling or tasting like burnt dirt or worse for months, others who had brain fog from long haul COVID, or the parents of the 13-year-old girl who died in the community where I practice.

Kids can get very sick from COVID, can have persistent symptoms, and can pass it to their elderly or chronically ill family members who may die.

I, the 67,000 other members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and most of the million physicians in the United States who recommend mask wearing and vaccines are not “public health bureaucrats,” as Mr Montanari claims, but caring health professionals and researchers who have spent many hundreds of hours reading peer-reviewed scientific research about this deadly disease, thousands of hours of caring for patients, and who strive every day to convince people to follow the advice of the experts so we can finally see our way out of this pandemic.

Dr. David Gottsegen practices at Holyoke Pediatric Associates in Holyoke.
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