As COVID cases sharply rise in the United States, children are among the groups hardest hit, with cases rising by more than 30% in the last two weeks alone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID cases among individuals age 17 and younger have risen by 32% in the last two weeks, and Illinois hospitals are reporting similar trends.
“Here in the hospital we’ve been seeing a greater uptick of COVID cases coming to in-patient floors,” Dr. Mike Cappello, vice chair of Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, said. “They have not been as sick, thankfully, but they are requiring some in-patient care and observation, so the numbers have been going up.”
Dr. Allison Barlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, says that the impact of increasing cases is being felt across the board.
“Across the city and state, we’re definitely seeing a rise in COVID cases across the board, but yes, we’re seeing it in our pediatric (patients) as well,” she said.
In Illinois schools, there are currently 170 confirmed outbreaks of the virus, but most of those outbreaks are confined to five or fewer cases, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Even still, Barlett says that COVID exposure is on the rise, and could force children to miss school if they aren’t vaccinated against the virus.
“There are cases and exposures happening in school, and our vaccinated kids often can stay in school,” she said. “Our unvaccinated kids have to miss in-person learning if they’ve been exposed.”
While children age 5-to-11 have only recently been allowed to receive COVID vaccine doses, those age 17 and younger have seen remarkable results with the treatment helping to keep them out of hospitals. According to the latest data from IDPH, just seven children, a statistically insignificant number from the vaccinated population, have been hospitalized because of COVID.
Of those patients, zero have died.
The state of Illinois reports that 542,003 children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID. A total of 178,392 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Barlett says that masking and vaccinations are the biggest keys to keeping COVID cases from continuing to rise among children.
“I really think that masking and vaccination have really helped keep kids in school,” she said.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike agrees.
“This is such a different place than we were at last year,” she said. “Let’s take advantage of the gift we have, and make sure that we are fully vaccinated.”
Doctors are also advising parents to be on the lookout for other illnesses, including RSV and the flu, with physicians advising parents to get flu shots for their children that are 6 months and older.