Aug 11, 2021 - COVID

Charlotte sees a ‘dramatic uptick’ in kids’ coronavirus cases before school starts

Novant Presbyterian Hospital

Novant Presbyterian Hospital

Novant pediatrician Dr. Catherine Ohmstede delivered the unsettling news last week that Novant has seen “a dramatic uptick” in the number of children with Covid-19 in recent weeks.

That’s children of all ages, she said, from babies to teenagers. And it recalls the jump in cases among adults after the holidays.

  • “Our clinics across the community have been busy diagnosing COVID in children,” she said.

Atrium Health similarly is seeing a surge in COVID cases at all its facilities, including Levine Children’s, Atrium spokesperson Kate Gaier tells Axios. “We truly hope we don’t see a repeat of what we saw earlier this year with the spike in adult cases happening in our youngest patients because of the Delta variant.”

Why it matters: For most of the pandemic, the common belief has been that kids don’t suffer from COVID, and don’t get it as frequently. But now, as the dawn of the 2021-22 school year approaches, recent warnings from health care professionals suggest that some of our youngest residents who can’t get vaccinated yet are actually getting very sick.

  • Infectious disease doctors are now trying to determine if the Delta variant is more virulent in kids than previous variants, Axios’ Tina Reed reported Tuesday.
  • And school districts around the state — including in less-urban places such as Kannapolis — are scrambling to implement mask policies to prevent outbreaks like we’ve seen in some non-traditional schools already.

By the numbers: On Jan. 9, 2021, when the number of cases peaked statewide, 70% of the 465 people hospitalized in N.C. were 60 or older. Only 4% were under 30, with less than 1% under 20, according to state data.

  • As of August 6, only 42% of the 235 hospitalizations are people 60 or older, while 11% are under 30, and 4% are under 20.
  • Statewide, children 17 and under currently make up about 13% of all Covid cases.

The rise of coronavirus cases among children is happening nationwide.

Dr. Mark Kline, infectious disease expert, & physician in chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, told CBS over the weekend that 18 children are hospitalized there with COVID-19. Nine are under the age of two, and six are in the intensive care unit. Five of the 18 are over 12, but none had gotten the vaccine.

  • “We’ve never seen anything like this,” Kline told the station. 

In Jacksonville, Wolfson Children’s Hospital had 21 Covid-19 patients as of August 9, Baptist Health tweeted. Six of those children were in the ICU.

  • In Florida, school starts this week. Despite the state’s COVID surge, Gov. Ron DeSantis has barred masks in schools.

Yes, but: It is still relatively unusual in North Carolina for children to get so sick from the virus that they require hospitalization, says Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease physician at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem.

Children are contracting coronavirus more these days, Ohl says, because they’re out in society more than they were six months ago. They’re at camps and playdates, school and out at restaurants. “They have more of a chance to be exposed,” Ohl tells Axios.

  • Because it is highly contagious, the Delta variant is infecting children more often if they come into contact with it, he adds.
  • And because school starts soon, parents should be cautious and do what they can to protect their children, including by having them wear masks at school, Ohl says.

He’s worried about the North Carolina districts that are making masks optional for the school year.

“They’re going to be asking for trouble. I suspect some won’t make it two weeks without having to shut down because of an outbreak,” Ohl says.


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