For Kristina Bryant, a pediatrician at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky., the coronavirus Delta variant is straining supports for children.
“Many days in June, we had no kids admitted to the hospital with COVID,” said Bryant, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville, but “as of this morning [Friday] at Norton Children’s Hospital, we had 21 kids; six of them were in the [intensive care unit].”
Nationwide, the rates of children and teenagers hospitalized with COVID-19 has ballooned nearly tenfold since the Delta strain of the pandemic took over in midsummer, from 0.11 at the start of June to 0.49 per 100,000 on Sept. 1.
Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds states’ vaccination efforts make a big difference in how fast hospitalizations rise.
States in the bottom 25 percent for vaccination rates have seen the number of children and teenagers admitted to the hospital rise four times faster than states with the highest quarter of vaccination rates, according to CDC research released Friday.
Since June, the infection rates for every 100,000 children have risen from 1.7 to 16.2 for those 4 and younger; from 1.9 to 28.5 for children ages 5 to 11; and from 2.9 to 32.7 for teenagers 12 to 17.
Similarly, the rate of COVID-related hospitalization for those under 18 rose from .11 per 100,000 on June 1 to .49 per 100,000 on Sept. 1. This is still much lower than the rate for adults, however; fewer than 53,500 children under 18 have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, compared to more than 542,000 hospitalized among those ages 60 to 69, and little more than a third of the roughly 140,000 hospitalized among those 18 to 29.
“One thing is clear: Cases, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations are much lower among children in communities with higher vaccination rates,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in a briefing Thursday afternoon.
A second study, also released by the CDC Friday, found that during July, the first month Delta became the dominant strain, teenagers in 14 states who had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus were nearly 10 times more likely to end up hospitalized, compared to those 12 to 17 years old who had been fully protected.
While students can lose live instructional time when required to quarantine up to 10 days, research suggests they can miss far more school if they end up with a severe case of coronavirus. For those hospitalized with COVID-19, it generally takes three to six weeks to recover. But on average, the CDC found that since Delta, about 1 in 5 of those under 18 admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 have needed intensive care, for two days on average; their recovery can take even longer.
“With case rates in children high, it is important for schools to follow CDC guidance and ensure that all students, teachers, staff, and visitors to schools wear masks and that there are additional layers of protection in school,” Walensky said.
“While early in the pandemic, we had some notion that maybe children weren’t going to be impacted, the reality of it is that while children are at a low risk, thankfully, compared to our adults, they’re not at no risk,” said Chris Busky, chief executive officer of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, in a briefing Thursday morning. “As we hear more and more kids being admitted to the hospital there will likely be more deaths following.”