‘Tremendous explosion of kids’: Pediatric hospitalizations increase just as children get ready to go back to school

Doctors in South Florida are reporting a surge in pediatric cases just as students are preparing to go back to school.

At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Broward County, pediatricians treated just over 20 children with COVID in June and more than 240 children with COVID in July. In just the first 10 days of August, they have treated 160 children with COVID. There were five children in the Intensive Care Unit on Tuesday.

Dr. Pablo Marcelo Laufer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said there is also a rise in COVID cases at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade County. On Tuesday, pediatricians were treating 25 COVID patients, including 18 who were in regular admissions and seven who remained in ICU.

“None of the patients who were admitted to the hospital, who are over the age of 12, are vaccinated,” Laufer said, adding he is concerned about “the combination of children going to daycares, camps and soon starting schools.”

Laufer said many of the pediatric patients who are 12 and older have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Dr. Joshua Lenchus, the chief medical officer at Broward Health, said the situation is changing quickly.

“Last year, we didn’t see this tremendous explosion of kids,” Lenchus said.

Dr. Hany Atallah, the chief medical officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said the Delta variant, the dominant coronavirus mutation in the U.S., is to blame. He said doctors are seeing higher viral loads and more transmissibility. More patients who don’t have the protection of a vaccine are experiencing more severe symptoms.

“It’s a daily challenge,” Atallah said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, and the Children’s Hospital Association, or CHA, also reported there was a “substantial” increase in pediatric COVID cases.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved vaccines for children under 12 years old. Dr. Lee Savio Beers sent an Aug. 5 letter to the FDA reporting that since the pandemic began, children have represented 14.3% of total cumulated cases, and for the week ending July 29, children were 19% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

“The higher proportion of cases in this population means this age group could be contributing in driving continued spread of COVID-19,” the president of AAP wrote about the nationwide spread. “Sadly, over 350 children have died of COVID.”

Children continue to have a decreased rate of hospital admissions than adults.

Total pediatric patients hospitalized in Florida: Reporting cutoff was Aug. 5 and updated on Aug. 10.

Source: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ data

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