Pediatric COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. continue to soar after nearly 250,000 children tested positive for the virus just last week. For those unvaccinated, getting infected a second time is a real possibility, as was the case for one Riverside girl.
The school year got off to an alarming start for many students, including 11-year-old Gisele Marquecho. She tested positive for COVID-19 before her first day.
"When I found out, I was upset because I couldn't go to cheer. I couldn't go to the first day of school. It was just lonely," Marquecho said.
"Yeah, we were very shocked," said her mother, Angela Bustillos.
That reaction stemmed from the fact that this is her daughter's second time contracting the virus. Her first infection was at Christmas.
"We are now seeing more and more children get infected and get sick," said pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Frank Esper with Cleveland Clinic Children's.
Doctors blame the delta variant. Last week, children made up nearly 30% of all reported cases.
Since the pandemic, pediatric hospital admissions have reached one of its highest points. Marquecho is too young to get the vaccine, so health officials say it's important for those around her to get vaccinated.
"I do think what we really need to do is to make sure that the adults in their lives all have the shot," said Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health.
Nationwide, federal data reveals about 43% of kids 12-17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In Los Angeles County, about 55% in that age group have been fully vaccinated.
"These vaccines have shown to be very effective and very safe in children. We watch everybody very closely to ensure that there are no severe side effects. But we can tell you that the infection is very severe, so when we balance the benefits and risks, the benefits far outweigh the risk," said Esper.
Marquecho's mother was on the fence about COVID-19 vaccines for children, but she's changed her mind.
"I'm not afraid of her getting vaccinated now. She had to stay in her room by herself, we had to make her quarantine and the first thing she said is 'I want the vaccine'," Bustillos said.