Nationwide increase in child COVID hospitalizations prompts worry in California as omicron surges

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021
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A nationwide rise in the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is sparking concern among California health officials as the omicron variant continues to drive infection numbers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A nationwide rise in the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is sparking concern among California health officials as the omicron variant continues to drive infection numbers.

Nearly 2,000 children across the country are hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID cases - up by approximately 700 pediatric patients compared to a month ago, according to federal data.

Daily pediatric COVID-related hospital admissions increased 80% over four weeks, with an average of more than 260 children being admitted to the hospital each day.

California officials fear a surge in pediatric hospitalizations after a "striking increase" in new hospital admissions for children was reported in New York state.

"Unfortunately NY is seeing an increase in pediatric hospitalizations (primarily amongst the unvaccinated), and they have similar 5-11yo vaccination rates," tweeted California state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan. "Please give your children the gift of vaccine protection as soon as possible as our case #s are increasing rapidly."

The New York State Department of Health said Friday a fourfold increase in admissions that began the week of Dec. 5 is concentrated in New York City and the surrounding area, where the highly contagious omicron variant was spreading rapidly.

Pediatric hospitalizations are up 395% in New York City since the week ending Dec. 11, jumping from 22 to 109 the week ending Dec. 23. Statewide pediatric hospitalizations jumped from 70 to 184.

While New York has the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations, Ohio and Texas also reported more than 150 children hospitalized with COVID-19.

RELATED: Pediatric hospitalizations up 395% in NYC since mid-December

Local pediatric hospitalist Dr. Paul Han at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center says he's caring for more kids suffering from severe COVID disease.

"Some kids are basically needing oxygen, some have increased shortness of breath," Han said. "Some kids come in dehydrated because they're not eating or drinking enough."

He said a large proportion of them are unvaccinated.

According to state figures, there were 966 COVID-positive patients in L.A. hospitals as of Monday, up sharply from 904 on Sunday. Two-hundred of those patients were being treated in intensive care, up from 188 a day earlier.

The hospital number has been on a steady climb over the past several weeks, far surpassing the roughly 550 patients reported in late November. The rise has shadowed a dramatic increase in daily COVID case numbers, which surpassed 11,000 on Saturday.

Los Angeles County reported 7,425 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths on Monday, with the numbers artificially low due to standard reporting delays from the weekend. The county has logged 1,623,442 cases of COVID-19 and 27,555 fatalities associated with the virus since the pandemic began.

Fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant, the seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 12.4% as of Monday, more than triple the county's rate from a week ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has credited COVID vaccines for preventing infected people from becoming seriously ill and creating a burden on health care workers similar to last winter's surge, which saw thousands of COVID patients in county hospitals. But deaths and hospitalizations are considered trailing indicators, so those numbers could still be in for a substantial spike in the coming weeks.

City News Service contributed to this report.