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The Number Of Children Hospitalized With Covid Hits Record High As Schools Reopen

More than 55,200 children have been hospitalized for Covid-19 since August 2020.

Child Covid-19 hospitalization rates have reached a new record high as children across the country head back to school. Recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed 2,396 children were currently hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Tuesday, a significant jump from the 1,902 pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations reported by the agency in mid-August. What’s more, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown the majority of children hospitalized for Covid-19 have no known underlying health conditions that would appear to put them at increased risk for serious illness.

While early research has shown children are less likely than adults to develop severe illness as a result of Covid-19, they’re far from being free of all risk. According to the CDC, Covid-19 hospitalization rates among children remain low compared to that of adults, though they are still steadily increasing — thanks largely to surging case numbers driven by the Delta variant.

Data released last week by the CDC showed child and adolescent Covid-19 hospitalization rates were nearly five times higher the week of Aug. 8 to 14 than they were the week of June 20 to 26. However, hospitalization rates were found to be highest among infants, toddlers, and teens with the CDC reporting a roughly 10-fold jump in weekly hospitalization rates for children aged 0 to 4 years old and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old from June 26 to Aug. 14. Since August 2020, more than 55,200 children under the age of 18 have been hospitalized for Covid-19. Additionally, the CDC has reported that 46% of children hospitalized for Covid had no known underlying conditions.

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For weeks doctors around the country have warned that pediatric ICUs have few, if any, beds available for new patients due to a surge of pediatric Covid-19 cases. “If your child's in a car wreck, if your child has a congenital heart defect or something and needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have Covid and need an ICU bed, we don't have one,” CNN reported Texas county judge Clay Jenkins said during an Aug. 13 news conference. “Your child will just not get on the ventilator, your child will be CareFlighted to Temple or Oklahoma City or wherever we can find them a bed, but they won't be getting one here unless one clears... Your child will wait for another child to die.”

By the end of August, the Children's Hospital Association, which represents more than 220 children’s hospitals nationwide, had written to President Joe Biden asking for federal help in combatting the pediatric hospital capacity crisis. “With pediatric volumes at or near capacity and the upcoming school season expected to increase demand, there may not be sufficient bed capacity or expert staff to care for children and families in need,” CHA CEO Mark Wietecha wrote. “The current impacts to our nation’s pediatric hospitals must be considered as we quickly develop local, state, and federal responses to serve and protect children.”

According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association, more than 5 million U.S. children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began and now make up roughly 15.1% of all the recorded Covid-19 cases in the country. Additionally, data from the CDC has shown that at least 520 children have died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

As children return to the classroom, both AAP and the CDC have urged schools to adopt a layers of protection approach that includes things like vaccines and universal masking to limiting the spread of Covid-19 among children.