Children’s Hospital sees increase in COVID hospitalizations; prepares for even more cases

NOLA Public Schools tested students and staff on Monday
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:58 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Children’s Hospital New Orleans is seeing an increase in hospitalizations as the Omicron variant continues to surge.

Dr. Mark Kline is Physician-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital.

“We’re seeing a lot of kids right now in the outpatient areas, in our primary care clinics, in our emergency departments, we’re really being inundated with children who have either COVID or COVID-like symptoms,” said Kline.

He said some hospitalized kids are in the intensive care unit.

“We have seen an increase in the number of children admitted to the hospital for COVID. We have 14 children who are in the hospital right now, three of them in the intensive care unit. Many of these children are young. The three that we have in the intensive care unit today are all under two years of age, so they’re too young to be vaccinated,” said Kline.

And given how contagious the Omicron variant is, Children’s Hospital expects to see even more cases.

“We’re preparing over the next few to really have a rough go. We think that we’re going to be seeing a fair number of children admitted to the hospital and probably the intensive care unit,” said Kline.

He said being vaccinated is helping other kids stay out of the hospital.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s online COVID dashboard shows of the vaccine series initiated 7.4% are children ages 5 to 17.

Dr. Shantel Hébert-Magee, who is LDH’s Region director says it is important to note that kids became eligible for two-dose Pfizer vaccines months after adults.

“Those between 5 and 11 have most recently been eligible to get vaccinated,” said Magee.

And she is confident vaccination rates for kids in that age will continue to go up.

“I do think that number will continue to rise as we start to think about the Mardi Gras season and the children who will be participating in those festivities,” said Magee.

Nationally, KFF, the Kaiser Family Foundation says an estimated 16.7% of kids 5-to 11-year-olds had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of December 6, but it also noted that vaccinations of kids in that age group have slowed considerably.

And in New Orleans on Monday the city’s public school system tested students and staff for the virus.

Dr. Henderson Lewis is the superintendent of NOLA Public Schools. He says the school district is aggressive in trying to keep campuses safe.

“When people are saying masks are optional, we’re saying, no, we’re wearing them and so again this is one more measure to make sure that we can preserve and continue in-person learning,” said Lewis.

Kline fears many kids will return to school with the virus given the holidays and their exposure to people who may be infected. “The schools are going to be a real wild card in all of this. The timing is very unfortunate for school to be reopening at a time when kids are just coming back from the holidays and from exposures to a lot of people that they don’t see frequently. I’m really worried that kids are going to come back to school with the virus said Kline.

Kline said even if a smaller percentage of kids end up requiring hospitalization during the current COVID surge compared to the Delta wave of the virus, he is not convinced those that are sick enough to be hospitalized will not see the same types of complications.

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