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Doctors are seeing more children with COVID-19 admitted to hospitals

Posted at 2:35 PM, Aug 12, 2021

COVID-19 is landing more people in the hospital as the delta variant continues spreading. But it's not just adults. Kids are filling up beds, too. 

Pediatric patients make up about 15% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

"We're seeing a huge surge," said Dr. Normaliz Rodriguez.

Dr. Rodriguez is on the front lines of the pandemic in Florida as a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.  

"For physicians, nurses, techs, we're so exhausted. It's a huge volume of patients. It's also very disconcerting and just frustrating to be going through this again, I think is how most people feel," said Dr. Rodriguez. 

The hospital is busier than before, with kids who are healthy enough to go home and those who need to stay. 

"You don't know which child is going to be negatively affected," said Dr. Rodriguez. 

"It's likely that's a function of the fact that we're seeing more cases in general. It's still thankfully a less severe disease in the pediatric population," said Dr. Allison Messina, the hospital's chief of the division of infectious diseases. 

Florida is seeing the nation's highest rate of children being hospitalized for COVID-19, but other southern states, like Georgia and Louisiana, are also battling the problem. 

"Sometimes we have a patient in the ICU intubated and in a room and their parents aren't there because their parents are also sick," said Dr. Kelechi Iheagwara.

"I'm worried because school has yet to begin for most of us here. And I worry with the fact this delta variant is so transmissible, we're going to have a lot of kids sick with COVID and we're going to have a lot of complications," said Dr. Iheagwara. 

Like kids, adult hospitalizations also remain on the rise. 

"The rise among adults nationally has been a little bit steeper than the rise in children. If you look at a state like Florida, they’re almost identical. Both of them have had almost a 700% increase over the past six-week time period," said Jason Salemi, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida's College of Public Health.

Salemi notes the rates for new hospitalizations for kids is still lower than other age groups though. In other parts of the country with lower numbers, some doctors are keeping a close eye on national trends. 

"We are actually very well prepared right now," said Dr. Todd Zimmerman, the medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas.

Zimmerman said their numbers are still low, though they're starting to see an uptick. 

"The key point we need to think about is how can we mitigate this? What can we do as a community to help fight this off? And, you know, believe in science," he said. 

Doctors emphasized the importance of vaccines for eligible kids and for those around children not yet eligible, as well as prevention measures like wearing masks.

This story was originally published by Haley Bull at Newsy.