Primary Children’s Hospital doctors concerned over COVID surge in kids
SALT LAKE CITY — More children are infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 now than at any other time in the pandemic, and caregivers at Primary Children’s Hospital are urging the public to help them protect children.
“The impact on children throughout the country, and in Utah, has been tremendous,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of infectious diseases at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Over the last week, 250,000 children were infected with the virus in the U.S., and 30,000 were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
At Primary Children’s Hospital, they are caring for critically ill children not only with COVID-19 but also with other respiratory viruses. But it’s that rise in COVID-19 cases that is bending the system and filling the ICU.
“Every child that suffering in the ICU is very personal. It’s a big deal to their parents. It’s a huge impact on the caregivers. It’s really a devastating thing to see,” Pavia said in a press briefing Thursday.
Last winter, he said, 12% of all coronavirus infections were among children. Now, it’s twice that at nearly 25%.
“We take this very personally, particularly when it’s preventable,” Pavia said. “When there are things we can do and they’re not being done.”
The sick children are isolated for their safety and the safety of other patients.
Jacob Farrin, a nurse in the pediatric ICU, said it’s a very uncomfortable time for children with COVID-19.
“They are in a room, by themself, and we can’t let the kid leave the room. We can’t let the family come and go as they please, and it’s a struggle,” he said.
He said his job was easier to handle when caregivers felt like people in the community were taking the virus seriously, earlier in the pandemic.
“I think it’s really important for people to help us out as the health care team that is here to stand up and back up people on the worst days of their life,” Ferrin said.
They take it personally because the virus is largely preventable now through vaccination, and masking. Back in May, they went weeks at a time with no kids with COVID-19 in the hospital. They are now averaging eight to 12, with several in the ICU.
The number of deaths is small, but each death has a profound effect on caregivers and family members.
“I can tell you that when we lost a child last week, a teenager, it was absolutely devastating on the staff here,” Pavia said.
Pavia said children are spreading it among themselves and bringing it home, and adults are spreading it to the children.
“That’s the result of a real change in the way we are behaving,” he said. “We’re not masking in schools. We’re not wearing masks out in public. We’re not doing all of the things we know how to do to protect children.”
If everyone who can get vaccinated, does get vaccinated, that will help protect the children who cannot. COVID-19 hospitalizations among children are lowest in states with the highest vaccination rates, and Utah is not there yet. Just over 50% of all Utahns are fully vaccinated, and children under age 12 are not currently eligible for any COVID-19 vaccine.
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