Hospitals in the South and Midwest say they are treating more children with Covid-19 than ever and are bracing for worse outbreaks to come.
Cases have jumped there over the past six weeks, with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading mainly among unvaccinated people. This leads to more sick children in places where the community spread of the variant is high, according to public health experts.
Children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccination rates for those between 12 and 17 remain relatively weak, according to data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although children are much less likely than adults to develop severe Covid-19 or die from the virus, recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 are at their highest since that the agency started tracking them last year. , driven by states that have been hit hard by the Delta variant.
Children’s hospitals are bracing for more cases as schools reopen. They hire more nurses, rework discharge protocols, speed up room cleaning, make contingency plans to increase bed capacity, and prepare staff for an increase in Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C. . A rare disease that can occur weeks after infection with Covid-19, MIS-C can lead to organ damage or even death without proper diagnosis and management.
It is not clear whether the Delta variant makes children sicker than they would have been if they were infected with previous strains. Some pediatricians believe this is the case due to the severity of the cases they have treated. Other pediatricians don’t believe Delta causes more severe Covid-19 in children than previous variants. But with Delta spreading widely, the number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 far exceeds anything they have seen in the past.