The U.S. is continuing to set new records for pediatric hospitalizations as Covid-19 cases explode among the younger population and currently has more children being hospitalized with Covid-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, according to federal data, as experts warn the worst may be yet to come.
Nearly 2,200 children are hospitalized with Covid-19 nationwide, data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows, a number that includes both confirmed and suspected coronavirus-linked hospitalizations.
That’s a more than 50% increase from the beginning of August when National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said a record 1,450 kids were hospitalized with Covid-19 and a 15% increase from last week when Reuters reported another record of 1,900 kids hospitalized.
The number of children admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 each day has also reached a new peak of 309 per day, or 2,163 children hospitalized per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though this statistic includes kids who may have been hospitalized for another reason and tested positive for the virus.
The CDC data shows 14 states—many of which have vaccination rates below the national average—set new records for child Covid-19 hospital admissions since the start of August: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The states with the highest rates of children being admitted according to the CDC include Georgia, with 1.43 children hospitalized per 100,000 residents, Florida (1.38), Alabama (1.16) and Louisiana (0.83).
Child hospitalizations have been surging in states—primarily based in the Southern U.S.—seeing broader increases in cases and hospitalizations driven by the more infectious delta variant. The uptick has been tied to a massive increase in coronavirus cases among children as there is not yet evidence that delta causes children to become sicker than other variants. More than 180,000 children tested positive for Covid-19 during the week ending August 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a nearly four-fold increase from mid-June when just 39,000 cases were reported. The surge 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. The corresponding surges are pushing many pediatric hospitals to capacity. For example, the pediatric ICU at Children’s Hospital New Orleans has been full for several weeks, reported The Wall Street Journal. Children under 12 are also not yet eligible for the protection of the vaccine, and inoculation rates among kids who are eligible remain low.
“This is different than we saw before. We weren’t sustaining those numbers several months ago,” Nick Hysmith, the medical director of infection prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., told The Journal. He said his facility now consistently has a handful of children hospitalized with Covid-19, including at least two in the ICU, and many of them don’t have underlying conditions.
What To Watch For
Experts are bracing for the situation to get worse as the return to classrooms nationwide appears to already be driving an increase in Covid-19 cases. As Forbes reported, tens of thousands of students were under quarantine just days into the fall semester, including many in states with governments battling mask mandates in schools. “In the first nine days of school, there were 503 cases of coronavirus in Duval County Public Schools,” Dr. Mobeen Rathore, an epidemiologist at the Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, told CNBC. “We are not only preparing for acutely ill children but also MIS-C. We are updating our protocols and planning for people, facilities and supplies for any surge.” MIS-C, a rare inflammatory syndrome caused by Covid-19, has already sickened 4,404 children and killed 37 since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC.
Hospitalization and death from Covid-19 remains “uncommon” among children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which highlights that children ranged from 1.6% to 3.6% of states’ total hospitalizations and between 0.00% and 0.22% of all Covid-19 deaths. Between 0.2% and 1.9% of the child Covid-19 cases reported by states resulted in hospitalization, the AAP said. However, the pediatrics group 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.”
“More Children Are Hospitalized With Covid-19, and Doctors Fear It Will Get Worse” (The Wall Street Journal)