Pediatric COVID hospitalizations on the rise

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York State Department of Health is cautioning healthcare providers and parents about an upward trend in pediatric hospitalizations associated with COVID-19.

The recent increases are most dramatic in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area where the omicron variant was first detected in the state and is spreading rapidly.

The numbers aren’t shockingly high but the rate at which they are rising is causing concern. In the NYC area, the number of pediatric cases has gone up nearly five-fold since the first week of December. In the rest of New York State, the numbers have nearly doubled.

Locally, the Golisano Children’s Hospital is seeing between three to seven new pediatric COVID admissions daily compared to one or none on most days in the early fall.

“It’s good to know that our hospital and the other children’s hospitals in upstate are staffed enough and able to manage this, but we worry,” said Golisano Children’s Hospital Pediatrician Dr. Stephen Cook.

Jennifer Lewke How severe are these infections?

Dr. Cook – The length of stay will be variable, if they’re medically complex…it’s usually longer. If they’re not, in general, it may not be as long. It depends on how severe they present. With kids, the data is still emerging and coming out.

Jennifer Lewke Is there symptoms that seem to be more present in children and that parents should be on the lookout for?

Dr. Cook – Obviously, if someone’s having trouble breathing…if you feel like, especially a young child or an infant is not eating or drinking and not urinating normally, signs of a more ill child…that would be alarming because it could be COVID. It could also be something else… unfortunately the summer showed us some kids getting Co-infected with COVID and say, RSV.

Dr. Cook recommends staying in close contact with your child’s pediatrician if he/she starts showing worsening symptoms. He, Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett are also using this uptick in pediatric hospitalizations as a reminder to parents

“Our vaccination rates in 5-11 year-olds remain disappointingly low,” Bassett said, “I hope that parents will take advantage of the opportunity to vaccinate their children so that their children are protected. It’s clear that vaccination really reduces the chance of severe illness.”

If your child is too young for the vaccine, “the way you protect that population is for older siblings to be vaccinated,” Hochul said, “if you have a three-year-old that cannot be vaccinated if you have a five-year-old who is interacting with your three-year-old… that five-year-old should be vaccinated in order to protect the younger members of your family as well.”

Locally, some parents report they can’t find pediatric vaccine appointment availability until the first or second week of January. Dr. Cook says because it’s holiday break and kids are home, there has been a surge of parents looking to get last-minute appointments. He suggests you try your pediatrician first, then check county/state clinics where appointments tend to open up on a rolling basis. Many pharmacies also offer the vaccine for kids ages 5-11.