ATLANTA — For nearly a year now, Georgia has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
As vaccines have started to be distributed across the country, we’re just starting to learn about some of the long-term effects the pandemic has had on children.
Channel 2′s Audrey Washington spoke with a metro pediatrician on Monday who gave some new insights about the emotional toll children and teenagers are dealing with.
“It’s definitely been difficult,” said Taylor Katz.
Taylor, 16, is a twin. She and her sister Alexandra Katz told Washington they believe it’ll be a long time before things are totally back to normal again.
“It’s weird. It feels weird,” Alexandra said.
In March of last year, Gov. Brian Kemp confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 in the state of Georgia.
Nearly one year later, that number has ballooned to nearly 800,000 cases across the state, with 14,000 deaths.
“It’s been a year, and people are still getting used to it, and it’s just this one virus that’s killed so many people,” Taylor said.
To help slow the spread of the virus, people are asked to wear masks, keep 6 feet apart and stay away from large gatherings.
Now, pediatricians, child psychologists and counselors are looking into what kind of long-term effects COVID-19 might have on children and teenagers.
Taylor admitted to Washington that sometimes, she feels a bit overwhelmed.
“It’s nerve-wracking, considering what the world is going through,” she said.
“Stress and (the) kind of things that change a child’s environment do impact them in the long run, and there are links between stress and fear and anxiety in childhood and, long-term, potentially being more at risk of developing mental health issues,” Atlanta-based child counselor Louise Finley said.
“What should parents look for? What are some of the signs in their children?” Washington asked Finley.
“So signs of stress in children — they’re going to look different in adults, but they may be things, such as increased clinginess, increased new fears, nightmares,” Finley said.
“What we are seeing is rampant numbers of anxiety and depression that has really skyrocketed. Behavioral issues in younger children,” said metro pediatrician Dr. Philip Spandorfer.
Experts said research on the matter is continuing.
As for Taylor and Alexandra, they’re trying to cope but said COVID-19 and all of the stress that comes along with the pandemic is never far from their minds.
“Even though a lot of people are getting vaccinated, I think masks are going to be the mandate for a while just to, like, for the safety of others, just to make sure the virus is run down and run out,” Taylor said.
Doctors told Washington that anxiety, depression and coping styles in children during the pandemic are currently being studied.
They hope to get new information on those issues by early spring.
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