MA hospitals not seeing rush of pediatric COVID cases

High adult vax rates likely helping keep numbers down

BOSTON — While hospitals in other parts of the country are seeing increased pediatric admissions due to COVID-19, that largely does not seem to be the case in eastern Massachusetts, yet.

“Knock on wood, we’re not in as dire straits as other parts of the country,” said Dr. Vandana Madhavan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We do have higher vaccination rates among our adult populations and older teens than many other states around the U.S. And we also have more mandates in place. And, also, kids haven’t gone back to school, for the most part, either.”

By contrast, in southern states, schools have been back in session for weeks now and public health discussions over mask-wearing have turned into political arguments in several places, including Florida and Texas, where infections have soared.

“We’ve seen a small uptick,” said Dr. Tim Gibson, the division director of the Hospitalist Service at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. “Not major at all. But a handful of teenagers who come in with cough and fever and are COVID positive and are essentially sick just the way adults have been sick.”

In fact, Gibson said those patients, who were unvaccinated, required ICU care.

“We continue to see infants that come in with fever that are incidentally found to have COVID,” Gibson said. “We have a continuing high number of psychiatric patients who are admitted; this has been the real crux of COVID in pediatrics is that it’s led to a dramatic increase in the number of suicide attempts and eating disorders, and occasionally those patients are COVID positive.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics does report a soaring number of kids contracted COVID during the month of August nationally, with more than 180,000 infections added the week ending August 20. Children still make up the minority of total infections in the U.S., but the proportion is rising, from 14.2% in July to 14.6% last week.

But the hospitalization rate for kids with COVID has been stable all summer at 0.9%. The AAP reports that translates into about 2.3% of kids with COVID requiring hospitalization.

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