Alabama this week set a new state record for the number of children hospitalized with Covid-19, the Alabama Department of Health said Friday, sounding the alarm about rising infections and hospitalizations among young people. (Clarification: This story originally stated Alabama had the highest rate of children hospitalized with Covid-19 in the country, but that was based on incorrect data from the CDC. The story has now been corrected.)
Alabama had 50 children hospitalized with Covid-19 across the state as of Thursday, a new pandemic record and a significant increase from the nine hospitalized on July 15, according to ADPH data shared with the Alabama Political Reporter.
The health department said at least nine children were being supported by ventilators on a single day recently, prompting the ADPH’s Dr. Karen Landers to say she is “very concerned that the children of Alabama are experiencing more illness and hospitalizations as a result of Covid-19.”
“Further, at least 113 children in our state have suffered from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Childhood (MIS-C), a severe illness that occurs after COVID disease and affects several organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, among other body systems,” Landers said.
While coronavirus cases and hospitalizations among children are rising in Alabama, it does not have the highest hospitalization rate in the country for this demographic, as the original version of this story claimed.
This claim was based on numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson said Friday morning were compromised by a data entry error from one Alabama hospital that is being corrected.
Williamson also highlighted in an interview with APR that while last year, many of the cases of children being hospitalized with Covid-19 were “almost incidental, ancillary observations” while a kid was being treated for something else, the trend is different today: “These are kids who are in the hospital because they have Covid,” he said.
Florida still leads the nation in children hospitalized with Covid-19, averaging 54 new admissions a day over the past week, according to the CDC.
Alabama’s hospital system has been overwhelmed amid a surge in cases caused by the more infectious delta variant, with the Alabama Hospital Association announcing Wednesday night that there were “negative 29” intensive care unit (ICU) beds available in the state. Battling one of the country’s most severe outbreaks, Alabama is also one of the least vaccinated states in the nation: just 36% of residents are fully inoculated while 47% have had at least one jab. Local public health experts say the number of children becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 is increasing because of the sheer number of new infections reported across the state. Kids under 18 are making up an increasingly large proportion of the U.S.’s total infections and cases among this demographic are soaring nationwide. In Alabama, the percentage of tests that are coming back positive among those aged 5 to 17 is currently higher than the state’s average at 27%. Furthermore, there were more than 6,000 confirmed cases among children between 5 and 17 between August 1 and August 12, according to ADPH, compared to the roughly 1,300 confirmed cases during the same period last year.
While health agencies have not said the delta variant is more dangerous to children, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, stressed during a Wednesday briefing that she is seeing kids seriously ill with Covid-19. “At Children’s Hospital here we have 12,” Marrazzo said of the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. “Two of those are intubated on a ventilator in the ICU. They’re less than two [years old] … It is a very scary virus, in terms of not only transmission, but probably its ability to cause severe disease, especially in children.”
What To Watch For
How the surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalization in kids will impact the school year in Alabama. The state has already reported nearly 6,000 Covid-19 cases since some schools returned for in-person learning this month. Local pediatricians have been urging children to wear masks while on campus. The coronavirus surge
Hospitalization and death from Covid-19 remains “uncommon” among children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which highlights between 0.00% and 0.03% of all infections ended in death in the states that have reported virus-related deaths by age. However, the AAP this week published an “urgent” call for more data collection “on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children” from “long-term physical health” to “emotional and mental side effects.” The surge in coronavirus hospitalizations among children is also being exacerbated by a rise in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a contagious seasonal flu. While RSV infections typically surge during the winter flu season, experts say the respiratory infections are likely increasing now because masking and social distancing to prevent Covid-19 infections delayed the normal RSV season.
“Alabama has no more I.C.U. beds available, the state authorities said.” (The New York Times)
“UAB doctors warn of delta’s impact on children, urge masks in schools” (The Alabama Reporter)