By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We sometimes take historical events for granted years later. In 1976, I attended the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) meeting in Washington, D.C. One of the sessions I attended was on childhood automotive safety. 

There were only 10 of us who attended that session It was sponsored by the Physicians for Automotive Safety. The reason behind the efforts was a simple one. Auto accidents killed more children than anything else. If we wanted to prevent childhood death, that was the place to begin. 

In 1977. Tennessee was the first state to pass a childhood car seat law. It went into effect in 1978. It was very successful at reducing childhood deaths in the state. The result was that by 1985 all 50 states had passed similar laws. 

I was a big proponent of car seat safety. I wrote a seminal article about parental excuses. It was published in the American Family Physician. Yep, even then I was writing articles for publication. 

I was assigned to Andrews AFB as a pediatrician. We conducted a four hour monthly educational session for women at 32 weeks gestation. One of the items covered at that session was car seat safety. 

I had letters thanking me over the years. One was from a mother that was hit by a car that ran a red light. She told me that her child was asleep in the back seat in the car seat at the time of the accident. After the accident occurred, the child was still sound asleep in the back seat. 

Another was from a pair of parents who had an accident on the Washington, D.C. beltway. During the accident the car rolled over onto its roof. The infant in the car seat was unhurt. She was hanging upside down in her car seat still buckled in. 

My efforts were rewarded. In 1980 the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration gave out its first ever award for efforts in child car seat safety. I was lucky enough to be the first recipient. 

Not everyone learned the lesson as quickly. My sister delivered her son. She had a car seat to take him home. The nurses could not understand why she didn’t hold him in her arms instead. 

In 1975, 1,384 children died in car crashes. In 2000 there were 1,264 deaths. That is a decrease of only 120 deaths in 25 years. However, that appeared to be when society got the message. Over the next 19 years deaths continued to decrease. In 2020 that number had dropped to 611. That is more than a 50 percent decrease over the 20 year period. 

In the almost 50 years since those events, the world has changed. Childhood car seats are taken for granted. Our society has changed. One of the things that has changed is the incidence of childhood car passenger deaths. 

COVID update- The total number of cases in Sussex County has gone from 175.9 per 100,000 people to 161.38 per 100,000 people. As far as actual numbers go, Sussex County has gone from 433 last week to 470 this week. The case rate is only calculated one day a week so that is why it went down a little and the total cases went up a little. 

The number of inpatient beds with COVID patients has gone from 5.9 percent last week up to 6.5 percent this week. That keeps us in the low risk range (less than 10 percent) for that measurement. 

New COVID admissions have gone from 15.8 per 100,000 people up to 18.1 per 100,000 people. That keeps us within the medium risk zone (between 10 and 19.9 admissions per 100,000 people) for that measurement. 

Nationally, the number of cases went from 937,000 last week to 919,000 new cases this week. 

In the meantime, Sussex County has stayed in the medium risk category because of inpatient admissions for COVID-19. 

Viruses constantly mutate. That gives them an advantage in their ability to infect humans. The current mutation of COVID-19 is called BA.5. 

This particular mutation appears to make the virus more infectious. There are more cases. Some of that is because of a higher infection rate in those who have received the vaccine. However, to this point it does not appear to be more severe than previous mutations. 

Hospitalizations are up. However, ventilator use does not seem to be increasing. ICU admission is not increasing as fast as the hospitalizations. Deaths do not seem to be increasing significantly. 

Getting a COVID-19 infection that is not severe is an annoyance. But if it does not prove to be fatal, then it just remains an annoyance.