Kids Sick with COVID Overwhelm Children's Hospitals in Areas Where Delta Variant Is Spiking
Children's hospitals are being overwhelmed as a spike in COVID-19 cases among kids threatens their resources.
Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana are among states with a rapid rise of children being hospitalized amid the highly contagious Delta variant.
Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock told Fox 16 on Monday that they had 27 COVID-19 patients under 18 — with 12 in the intensive care unit and eight on ventilators.
"Thanks to the delta variant, it's a lot more contagious and appears to be infecting children more often than what we were seeing earlier in the pandemic," Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases for Arkansas Children's and UAMS, Dr. Jessica Snowden told the outlet. "Those community measures that we know helped last year in terms of distancing, wearing or masks and washing our hands, so that we can make sure we're keeping our kids safe."
Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri told KMBC they had 12 children hospitalized last Thursday and by Monday the number had increased to 22. Seven of those children are in ICU, ranging from infants to teens.
"You're going to see hospitalizations. You're going to see kids, you know, needing ventilator support," Dr. Angela Myers, who leads the infectious diseases division at Children's Mercy Hospital, told the outlet.
Myers said the best way to reduce cases is to wear masks. "That's the way to be able to stay in your after-school activities and your sports, is where you're going to prevent getting infected, is to stay masked. You know, those are big motivating factors for teenagers, right? They want to stay a part of all of those things," she said.
Also in Missouri, St. Louis Children's Hospital had 13 children admitted to the ER for COVID-19 in the last week of July and 20 additional kids who needed beds during the first week of August, per NBC News.
In North Texas, children's hospitals are over 97% capacity amid increased cases of COVID-19, health officials said on Monday, according to WFAA.
Children's Health in Dallas has 33 patients being treated for COVID-19 and Cook Children's has 16 patients requiring treatment, per the outlet.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Friday that 13 children were hospitalized with COVID at Children's Hospital New Orleans ranging from infants to teens. Four of those children, including a 3-month-old boy, a 23-month-old girl, an 8-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy, were in the ICU.
"Children in Louisiana have died of COVID and more unfortunately will die," said Dr. John Vanchiere, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said during the press conference alongside Edwards. "This is not a time for politics, for fighting or threatening lawsuits about masks. Masks save lives. And if you're a pro-life Louisiana resident like I am, wear your mask."
46,276 children in the U.S. were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the first week of August, data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows.
An average of 225 kids were admitted a day which was 27.2% more than the previous week.
The total cases of children diagnosed with COVID-19 is 4,292,120, representing 14.3% of all cases, per the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Kids under the age of 12 are at risk of contracting the virus as they are not eligible to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Jim Versalovic, the chief pathologist and interim chief pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, told NBC News on Monday, the "major driving force in the spread of infections" is "within households, parents to children."
"We have certainly seen siblings — more than two at times — with an infection at the same time, so spread within households is certainly a very real phenomenon," he added.
Texas Children's Hospital in Houston is a participant in the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine trials for kids under 12. "Hopefully, there will be emergency authorization soon after we release the data, but we have to face the reality of beginning the school year without it," Versalovic told NBC News. "We do anticipate having vaccines available for kids during the first half of the school year, but for children under 5 that's likely to occur later in the year, possibly early 2022. It's going to be an ongoing effort."
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.