On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, the Dr. Nasry Michelen Allied Health Lecture Series presented a forum on COVID-19 and its impact on children, featuring panelists Dr. Rocio Hernández, Dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza, and Dr. Bienvenido Fajardo. Moderated by Community Relations Dean Ana García Reyes, the event was the third in the ongoing series and the first of the Fall 2021 semester.  

Hostos President Daisy Cocco De Filippis opened the discussion, noting the importance of understanding how COVID-19 — and the pandemic as a whole — affects children, physically, socially, and psychologically. “As we read the statistics of these past few months, more and more children are becoming the face for the devastating impact of COVID-19,” she said. “In particular, in parts of the country that lag behind in vaccination rates, the poorest and most disadvantaged children, and the communities in which they live, bear the brunt of these changes.”

Dr. Rocio Hernández, Hostos alumna, ’01, and Executive Assistant at Pediatrics 2000, began by acknowledging the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on families, particularly those with children and adolescents. “For those of you who are parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers, you know better than anyone how your child’s life has been impacted,” she said, adding that although children are remarkably resilient, many have struggled.  

Dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza, President and CEO of Pediatrics 2000 and the SOMOS Community Network, and Nasry Michelen Foundation board member, shared data on COVID-19 cases reported in children and adolescents, noting that as of September 16, 2021, the data available reports that approximately 5.5 million children have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and he noted there has been “a tremendous explosion” in the number of children who have tested positive for the virus over the previous four weeks. Dr. Tapia Mendoza and Dr. Hernández also discussed how mutations in the virus lead to new, more contagious and infections strains, like the Delta variant, which make people sicker and can lead to more hospitalizations and death.

Assistant Attending Physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Bienvenido Fajardo, Clinical Instructor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and CEO of Bronx United IPA, agreed, explaining: “When an infection goes from one person to another, who is not vaccinated, which is very important to clarify, we get a mutation.”

Dr. Fajardo also shared that although the coronavirus was originally not thought to affect children as much as it did adults, the former is getting infected as much as the latter, and he discussed the risk of children potentially developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome as a result of COVID. 

The doctors also spoke about the importance of getting vaccinated, and they encouraged parents and caregivers to speak with their family physician for additional information about the virus and vaccines. 

The next Nasry Michelen Allied Health Lecture Series discussion will be held at 3:30 p.m. on October 14, with Benny Lorenzo.  

Watch the “COVID-19 and Its Impact on Children” forum here.