Some children in our community are now faced with homelessness, hunger, despair,
solitary confinement, neglect, abuse, and in some cases, deportation to other countries
by responsible parents (some who are responsible for harvesting the food on our tables)
to avoid the prospect of being left home alone in an unsafe environment.
Sima Asadi, MD,
Chair of Pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center Merced.
Medical Director of the Merced Satellite NICU,
operated by Valley Children’s Hospital.
Editor’s Note: For the second consecutive regular meeting of the Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, July 28, only one citizen spoke up about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and this region’s response to it. Two weeks ago, a resident spoke up with concern about the state’s public safety orders conflicting with people’s right to exercise religion. This week, Dr. Sima Asadi spoke up with concern about the harm being done to local children during the pandemic — not from the virus, but from society’s response to it. The following is her complete statement that she was unable to finish under the time restraints of the meeting.
“As some of you know, I am a board-certified community pediatrician in private practice in Merced for over 20 years. I am the product of an in-person public education from kindergarten through medical school. I have spent many hours over the past five months reading and studying COVID-19 primarily as it relates to pediatrics. I understand how foreign a language this seems for non-scientists, but I will do the best I can to try to make this very complex issue as understandable as possible.
“As a pediatrician, my role in the community is to advocate for our children. In science and medicine, when deciding on a treatment, solution or recommendation, we are calculating benefit versus risk. NO prescription, treatment, solution, or recommendation comes without any risk. Please hear me — I am NOT saying that COVID-19 poses no risk for kids. However, scientific evidence is mounting that shows that COVID-19 is not a pediatric pandemic. For the most part, kids are not contracting, spreading or significantly suffering from COVID-19.
“It can be safely assessed that this risk of COVID-19 to children is significantly less than the academic, social, emotional, mental, physical, and nutritional benefits of in-person school. In fact, in many parts of our country and other countries, kids have been in preschools, daycare centers, and other large centers without significant, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19.
“Make no mistake, here in the U.S., we are failing our children in our response to this pandemic. I am already witnessing firsthand the heavy toll that it is taking on our children, not the virus itself but our inability as a society to accept science and cohesively respond to the pandemic. Some children in our community are now faced with homelessness, hunger, despair, solitary confinement, neglect, abuse, and in some cases, deportation to other countries by responsible parents (some who are responsible for harvesting the food on our tables) to avoid the prospect of being left home alone in an unsafe environment.
“I am not talking about refugee children in a third world country, I am talking about real kids, real circumstances in Merced, CA, USA. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a society. We prioritized our re-opening in a way that has now left us no choice but to delay re-opening our schools. Months ago our epidemiologists, my colleagues sitting behind me, outlined in detail the protocols necessary for a safe re-opening of our schools. The governor has outlined the same and has given clear guidelines as to when we can restart in-person school based on metrics that measure the severity of the outbreak. I suggest that EVERY adult in a decision-making capacity in our county please put politics aside and work together to ensure that our schools, pre-K through 12, are ready to open safely as soon as we meet those metrics.
“Unfortunately there are three other metrics that all of us need to pay attention to: 1) Teen suicide rate, 2) Teen pregnancy rate, and 3) School drop out rate.
“By being in denial about the problem, we have failed our kids.
“I own that, we must own that, and we must work together to make it better.
“Before closing, I want to publicly commend Our Lady of Mercy School in Merced for doing an upstanding job at quickly providing distance learning, and thereafter following the guidelines I mentioned to the letter, and then some. They even converted their drinking fountains to hand-washing stations. We should look to them as an example of how to move towards a safe re-opening of our schools.”
Sima Asadi, MD, is the Chair of Pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center Merced. She is also the Medical Director of the Merced Satellite NICU, operated by Valley Children’s Hospital.