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Pediatric COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising In Utah, Study Says

FILE PHOTO (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A new study showed a rise in pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations during the pandemic in Utah and across the country.

While data has shown children are less susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19, some get very sick too.

Hospitalized children make up 2% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in Utah. That’s up from 1% early in the pandemic, and more than 100 Utah kids have had COVID-19 severe enough to be hospitalized.

“Hospitalizations among kids have been going up throughout the course of the pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Primary Children’s Hospital and University of Utah Health.

Pediatric hospitalizations in Utah were very low through the summer, he said. “What is striking is that as we got into August and through December that hospitalizations in children increased quite dramatically, and they increased faster than they did in adults,” Pavia said.

Researchers in Minnesota examined data from 22 states from May through November and said nationwide, pediatric hospitalizations have more than tripled during the pandemic.

More than 5,000 children up to age 19 were hospitalized, and researchers said they saw an increase from two children hospitalized per 100,000 to 17. That compares to 282 hospitalizations per 100,000 adults.

Utah saw the largest percentage increase in child hospitalizations among the states studied, rising from less than one child per 100,000 people to 15.5 children — a jump of 5,067%.

“It’s still true that children are relatively protected from serious outcomes compared to adults. But if you look at the absolute numbers it’s still important to remember that kids can get very sick,” said Pavia.

Right now, seven Utah children are hospitalized with active COVID-19 infection, while four others are hospitalized with pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

The reason for the rise? Pavia pointed out Utah reacted quickly to shutting down schools in the spring and when schools reopened in late summer, cases among kids rose. “We started off doing very, very well. And we ended in the same boat everyone else is, with a lot of pediatric disease.”

His message for parents: “Even though it’s not devastating for kids, it still can be serious, and you need to protect your children by all of the usual things,” said Pavia.

They need to wear masks, social distance and avoid large gatherings to avoid the virus, he said.

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