"It's so heartbreaking," Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children's Hospital Philadelphia, said. It was difficult enough last year. But now, you know there is a way to stop it all.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 334 children aged 17 and below were admitted to hospitals with coronavirus each day during the week of December 21-27. This is 58% more than the previous week.
According to the CDC, the previous peak occurred in September when children were admitted to hospitals on average 342 per day.
Children continue to make up a small portion of patients admitted with COVID-19. In December, an average of 9,400 people from all ages were admitted daily. Many doctors believe that the children now admitted are less sick than the ones who were admitted during the summer delta surge.
CDC data show that 14% of children are fully protected two months after their vaccinations were approved. At 53%, the rate for 12- and 17-year-olds is higher.
In many cases, the issue is timing, according to Dr. Albert Ko of Yale School of Public Health, who is a professor of epidemiology. He said that vaccines for younger children were not approved until November and many are just now getting their second dose.
Offit stated that none of the vaccine-eligible kids receiving treatment at his hospital a week ago had been vaccinated. However, two-thirds of them had underlying conditions that could put them at risk, such as chronic lung disease and obesity. Only one child was below the age of 5
These scenes are heartbreaking.
Offit stated that the patients are struggling to breathe and coughing. "Several were taken to the ICU to be sedated. The attachment that was attached to the ventilator is put down their throats and they are now crying."
He said that neither the parents nor siblings were vaccinated.
He said that the next four to six weeks will be difficult.
All ages are experiencing an increase in new cases. The average number of new cases per day is 300,000, which is 2 1/2 times what it was just two weeks ago. According to the CDC, 59% of all new cases occurred last week due to highly contagious omicron.
However, early signs suggest that the variant can cause milder illnesses than the previous versions. The booster and vaccine combination seems to be effective in protecting people from the worst side effects.
Health officials in California reported that 80 children with COVID-19 infection were admitted to hospital during the week of December 20-26. This compares to 50 who were admitted to the hospital the previous week.
Seattle Children's reported an increase in children admitted to the hospital over the last week. While they are not as seriously ill as those who were hospitalized in the summer, Dr. John McGuire warned that this is still early in the omicron wave and that the full effects will be apparent over the coming weeks.
New York's health authorities also raised the alarm.
Between Dec. 5th and Dec. 24, the number of children admitted into New York City's hospitals per week with COVID-19 increased from 22 to 109. It increased from 70 to 184 in New York State. Nearly 5,000 New Yorkers were treated with COVID-19.
Ko stated that a fourfold increase in New York City's population causes everyone to be concerned, but it is a small percentage. "Children are at low risk of being admitted to hospital, but children who have been vaccinated are not at high risk."
Dr. Al Sacchetti of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden (New Jersey) said that vaccinated children are handling omicron very well.
He said, "It makes all the difference in how these children tolerate the disease, especially if they have some medical issues."
Over the course of the pandemic, COVID-19-related deaths among children have been rare. According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 721 children in the United States had died of COVID-19 as of last week. The total U.S. death rate is over 800,000.
The pediatrics group reported that nearly 199,000 child COVID-19-related cases were reported during the week of December 16-23. This represented 20% of the 950,000 cases that were reported in that week.
Many of these children will be able to recover at home. However, some may come in contact with other children who are more at risk, according to Dr. Jason Terk, North Texas pediatrician. He said that he cared for a 10-year old boy with COVID-19, who was well managed, but his father died.
He said that while the death of a parent can be devastating, it is not possible to quantify the toxic stress that young people experience in such a situation.