Orlando Sentinel | by Caroline Catherman | August 12, 2021
Central Florida’s children’s hospitals report that about 30 are hospitalized with COVID-19, including six in their intensive-care units.
About 12 children are hospitalized with COVID-19 at AdventHealth for Children, Dr. Michael Keating, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said at a Thursday news briefing.At Nemours Children’s Hospital, nine children are hospitalized, with four in the ICU, according to Dr. Adriana Cadilla. Orlando Health’s hospitals report nine pediatric patients, with one in the ICU, said spokesperson Jordon Desmond.
“I wish there were none, and there was a time when there was none, when we were doing the right things last year, when we were masking and social distancing, and keeping everybody safe,” Keating said.
Over 90% of all hospitalized patients, children or adults, are unvaccinated at Orlando Health and AdventHealth. Nemours did not share its patients’ vaccination data. About 41% of eligible children over 12 years old are vaccinated in Florida.
Many children who get COVID-19 never end up in the hospital. Over 27,000 Florida children ages 0-19 tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to the Florida Department of Health’s weekly report.
Yet, some children can face complications such as pneumonia. Though rare,they may require supplemental oxygen and Remdesivir, a medication that stops the virus from spreading throughout the body. Keating has also seen over 60 cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a rare complication that can occur several weeks after a COVID-19 case in children.
Severe COVID-19 can strike anyone, but some children are at higher risk of becoming severely ill. Adolescents and teenagers react to infection similarly to adults. Keating has also seen a large number of Hispanic children with COVID-19, which he said reflects the community’s population.Many of the children hospitalized have pre-existing conditions such as morbid obesity or chronic lung disease, said Dr. Federico Ricardo Laham, medical director for pediatric infectious diseases at Orlando Health.
Cases are rising in adults too, and Keating worries that children could catch the virus at school then give it to their caregivers. The majority of children are symptom-free, which makes this disease a dangerous “wildcard.” Masks are a simple solution, and he has found that children easily adapt to wearing them.
About 4% of students at Orange County public schools opted out of wearing masks this year.
“When kids come into my office I say, ‘look, this is your daily hygiene: You brush your teeth, you comb your hair, you put on your mask,’ and they get it. I don’t get any pushback,” he said.
About 660 adults are hospitalized at Orlando Health hospitals with COVID-19, with almost one out of six, 101, in the ICU, according to Desmond.
“The beat goes on, and it’s the beat of a war drum,” Keating said. “The surge continues and we’ve got to blunt that surge. We’re in a war.”
If the virus continues to spread, it may mutate into a form that brings more severe infection to children, Keating said. The current dominant strain, delta, is more contagious but does not seem to be more severe.
Alongside wearing masks, Keating urged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible, calling COVID-19 the biggest tragedy of his lifetime. Prior infection is not sufficient protection, he added.
“Go out, get vaccinated, mask your child,” he said. “That’s what Americans do. They do what’s good for the whole. Let’s stop and think a little bit less about ourselves, and whatever beliefs we might have, and think about what’s best for the whole.”