Kids are being hospitalized with the coronavirus at higher rates than ever before, and experts fear the worst is yet to come.
COVID-19 cases among children are on the rise in the Southern and Midwestern states, where hospitals are filling up with pediatric cases. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, pediatric cases of COVID are at their highest point since the agency began tracking them in mid-2020. And with schools starting back up and the delta variant sweeping the nation, experts warn that a rise in cases is on the horizon.
Cases of coronavirus among kids dropped during the summer months, but have seen a sharp rise as fall approaches. The last month saw cases rise four-fold, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. The report noted that near the end of July, weekly cases among children were at about 38,000. By the time the week ending on Aug. 19 came around, weekly cases had risen to more than 180,000.
The surge in COVID cases among children is pairing with a seasonal illness called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The flu-like illness is typically seen in the fall, sparking concerns that it, too, will worsen as the weather begins to cool. Hospitals that cater to young patients are concerned that the dual illnesses will overwhelm staff and crowd hospital beds across affected areas.
“We are on the front end of a huge COVID surge,” Dr. Heather Haq, a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, wrote via Twitter. “We are now having winter-level patient volumes of acutely ill infants/toddlers with RSV, and I worry that we will run out of beds and staff to handle the surge upon surge.”
Fears of a surge in coronavirus cases among kids is fueling the push for schools to mandate masks among their students and staff. Vaccines are not currently available to children under the age of 12, which means that many schools are filled to the brim with unvaccinated students. Masks are a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant.
“The virus is raging in all these children who are unvaccinated, which is why in schools mask mandates are so important,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said. “They have no other protection. They’re literally sitting ducks.”