As coronavirus cases surge among adults, intensive care unit beds are in demand for area children as well, as several Chicago-area children’s hospitals say they are seeing more kids needing care, and it’s not just COVID that’s causing the rush for beds.
According to experts, there’s been a spike not just in COVID cases among children because of the delta variant, but also in other illnesses as well.
“To compound the COVID hospitalizations, all of the usual winter respiratory viruses like RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and para-influenza are circulating as well,” Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, says. “It’s been…probably about the last month, where many days we hit our triggers for what we call ‘surging,’ where we sort of wrap everything and see if there are patients stable enough for discharge, so that we can get the kids who are waiting in.”
Hospitals around the country are seeing increases in children hospitalized for a variety of ailments, including COVID. In fact, according to the CDC, new COVID admissions for children have reached their highest level since tracking of those cases began last year.
On average, the U.S. is seeing 303 new COVID admissions per day, according to CDC data.
At Advocate Children’s Hospital, officials say the two campuses have had at least one-to-two children being admitted because of COVID on each day, compared to July when the hospital reported zero COVID cases in children for a stretch of several weeks.
At Lurie Children’s Hospital, officials say they are experiencing “unusually high inpatient volumes” in recent weeks, with COVID and other serious conditions contributing to those increases.
Officials say these spikes in RSV and other respiratory illnesses are common in the fall and winter, but to see them in summer is not normal, according to experts.
These numbers are spiking as children get set to return to school, but Bartlett says there are practical and simple methods of keeping kids safe even in an in-person learning environment.
“Schools can absolutely be open safely and kids can have meaningful in-person education,” she said. “If we do it right, it means masking for everybody.”
There are other reasons for optimism as well. The delta variant, which is causing a surge in COVID cases across the country, is more contagious than previous strains of the virus, but does not appear to cause more severe illness in children.
In addition, even with the recent increases in hospitalizations, children still make up roughly 1.8% of COVID hospitalizations in the United States.