Delta variant tightens grip on US as kids under 12 await vaccine

A previously-skeptic Arkansas mom is urging others to get vaccinated after her 13-year-old tested positive and was intubated. Questions remain about kids’ safety upon their return to school.
10:34 | 07/20/21

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Transcript for Delta variant tightens grip on US as kids under 12 await vaccine
I am here with my 13-year-old daughter, Kyla. She has covid and has been intubated. Reporter: Angela Morris never dreamt she'd be in this position, when her 13-year-old daughter calla first got sick it didn't seem that serious. She had a fever of about 101 for about a week. When it got to the point that she didn't want to eat anything is when I took her to her doctor and she said she's positive for and the next day we were here at the hospital being intubated. Reporter: That was two weeks now both mother and daughter have covid. Kaia remains on a ventilator, her mom standing vigil at her hospital bedside. A lot has been going on. Her kidneys have failed. It's all been very overwhelming. Reporter: In their home state of Arkansas hospital admissions are up 230% in the last month. Some are even full as the new delta variant tightens its grip on the entire country, especially among the young and the unvaccinated. Most of the patients are between the ages of 20 and 50. We have about a fifth of those patients are pregnant women. And largely they are unvaccinated. Reporter: In Arkansas only about 35% of residents are fully vaccinated. Compared to the national average, which is nearly 50%. The state's infection rate is the second highest in the country. I was very apprehensive to getting her the vaccine, and I had a false sense of security when the mask mandate got dropped. But I really want parents to know that getting your children vaccinated is obviously better than the situation we're in right now because I did not get her vaccinated. Reporter: Health care workers nationwide are sounding the alarm on this covid resurgence. If you don't choose the vaccine, you're choosing death and you're choosing a surge and another surge. Reporter: At the same time the country appears to be embracing a return to normal. With so many states and cities dropping safety measures like mask mandates and capacity limits. There are many points in this pandemic where I folt like we were done and then for one reason or another it would only be a matter of time before it felt like it was cyclical and you started getting the coughs, the sneezes, the fevers and then it started to progress. When you look at statistics across the country, what troubles you the most? The unvaccinated states, or the states with low vaccination rates. And the reason why is because it's predictable at this point. Reporter: Every state except South Dakota and Wyoming have reported an increase in new covid cases over the last week. Outbreaks have hit younger age groups more this time around, including some of the country's biggest olympic hopefuls. Tennis star coco gauff was set to go for gold in Tokyo but will have to wait until the next games after she tested positive for covid this weekend. And 18-year-old gymnast Kara Eaker, one of the alternates on team usa, also testing positive. Her father told our Kansas City station that his daughter has no symptoms so far and is vaccinated. She can't practice or anything like that. Like I said, the biggest disappointment is that this takes her out of it completely. Reporter: The white house is putting some star power into its outreach to young Americans. bringing "Good for you" singer Olivia Rodrigo to the white house last week to meet the president and speak with Dr. Fauci. I got my first dose of the Fauci ouchie. We still have millions of people in our country who are not vaccinated. Our kids depend on us, the people around them, being protected, being vaccinated in order to shield them from the virus. Reporter: Adam Joseph learned that the hard way. We kind of feel like we failed as parents. Reporter: Joseph is a meteorologist at our Philadelphia station WPVI. He and his husband are vaccinated, but his 5 and 6-year-old kids are too young to get the shot. He invited an unvaccinated relative to his home, who later tested positive for covid-19. His children are now sick. So is their nanny. We're still scared, you know, of the long-term effects with our kids. Please, if you are not vaccinated, do not go around children who are under 12. They are so vulnerable right now. Reporter: Protecting kids is front of mind for so many parents as summer break ends and kids head back to school. I'm really nervous about going back to in-person instruction now. The mask mandate has been lifted. It just makes me very apprehensive. Reporter: Katie Nash is a teacher near Phoenix, Arizona. So here is my classroom. We've lessened some of the safety precautions that we had been taking. We are not cleaning desks in between passing periods. And my big fear right now is this delta variant. But also the number of people that are still not vaccinated. Go ahead and get our bags ready for -- Reporter: It's more than just her health on the line. Both Katie's young daughters will be returning to school this week too. One is immunocompromised. It's our last weekend before school starts. Reporter: Despite the recent rise in cases, Arizona like many other states will not require kids to wear masks at school. That decision falls on the family. Kailee, are you nervous about being the only kid at school who's wearing a mask? Kind of. Kindar. Reporter: In Tucson some kids went back to school today, masks some educators are embracing the return to prepandemic life. Seeing the kids and seeing their faces, seeing them smile, seeing their reactions, and I know that our students are going to be excited to see our faces and our smiles. What's your favorite part about going back to school? Seeing my friends. Yeah, seeing my friends and meeting my teacher. Reporter: Nash understands the drive to get back to normal. She took her girls shopping for school supplies this weekend. I would love to say to our governor, our state legislators, our federal lawmakers as well, president Biden, we need to have a mask mandate back again. I don't want to force vaccinations on anybody. So the simplest solution is to continue to require to wear masks. Parents and kids very concerned about what's going to happen in the fall. Will they be safe? The first thing you can do is get vaccinated, make sure everyone in the household is vaccinated because children are more likely to be exposed to covid-19 from adults and teenagers rather than other kids. Bottom line, I think children who are not vaccinated should be wearing masks when they're indoors with other children. Reporter: The American academy of pediatrics agrees, putting out a recommendation that everyone wear masks in school this fall. Pitting the physicians group against the CDC, which says vaccinated kids and staff can go without masks and leaves the final decision up to local leaders. Over the weekend the former surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, says he thinks the CDC should reinstate a national mask mandate. Adams along with Dr. Fauci early last year initially advised against the general public wearing masks. But that was before we had solid evidence on just how effective he spoke to local affiliate wish TV. So the CDC intended to again give localities flexibility. But what health officials are telling me is that the public just universally heard we're done with masks. And so the message is really the problem here, not the intention. Reporter: Some already have. Los Angeles just reimposed mandatory mask wearing for all indoor spaces as cases there In areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people or where cases are rising it's very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures like the mask rules you see coming out in L.A. And I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country too. Reporter: The disagreement between what government officials should and should not be doing to protect younger Americans coming to a head for one doctor in Tennessee. This is more than about me. This is about public health. This is about serving people. Reporter: Dr. Michelle Fiscus is a pediatrician outside of Nashville. Until recently she was Tennessee's top health official. He should made headlines last week after she was fired. I'm not embarrassed for being terminated. I feel like I stood my ground. I forced them to justify something that's not justifiable. Reporter: Fiscus says she believes she was fired after a memo she sent to doctors in may upset some state lawmakers. In Tennessee children 14 to 17 years old in some cases can receive medical care without parental permission. She says the memo simply explained the rules. What this was interpreted as was an undermining of the parental right to control what happens to their child rather than a restating of fact and a sharing of information about that particular doctrine. Reporter: But public information requests uncovered a memo listing reasons for her firing, including lack of effective leadership, lack of appropriate management and other complaints from employees. The health department told us that letter is an internal hr document and that the recommendation memo speaks for itself. But Dr. Fiscus responded by releasing her own rebuttal as well as her annual reviews, which mostly praise her job performance. How would you describe overall this document with all of these allegations against you with regarding your termination? Well, there are elements of but largely it is false narrative and accusations that are untrue. Reporter: Tennessee officials had already come under fire after instructing departments to pull back on vaccine outreach programs to teenagers. When you look at the majority of cases and hospitalizations, for the first time since this pandemic has started our age majority is below the age of 50. You know, that's terrifying. We're transferring now to these younger patients who it feels honestly just unlucky and unfair when they get ill. And it feels like they're a victim of the fact -- of misinformation, to be quite honest. It's misinformation, officials are trying to clamp down on, encouraging people to follow the facts. It's not political, they say. It's a matter of life or death. The most important message here is that this is not about my firing. This is about politics and political agendas getting in the way of public health and people because of this pandemic literally dying because of it. And that is unacceptable. The only way that we're going to get ahead of this pandemic is for everyone who can get a vaccine to get vaccinated.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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