Children's hospitals brace for more COVID-19 patients amid school reopenings

COVID-19 hospitalizations among children are at the highest level since HHS started tracking them last year, and some children's hospitals are preparing for surges to worsen as schools reopen, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 22.

Many children's hospitals in the South and Midwest have reported an uptick in pediatric cases over the past six weeks as the delta variant rapidly spread among unvaccinated people. Facilities in these regions are preparing for a potential spike in cases linked to school reopenings by hiring more nurses, updating discharge protocols and improving room cleaning efficiency, among other efforts. 

Children's Hospital New Orleans has had up to 20 kids hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past three weeks, about half of whom didn't have underlying conditions, according to the hospital's Physician-in-Chief Mark Kline, MD. Last year, the hospital never saw more than seven pediatric hospitalizations at a time, and most involved kids with underlying health issues, Dr. Kline said. 

In preparation for a school-related surge, the hospital has hired about 150 new nurses to start over the next few weeks, converted more hospital beds to intensive care unit beds and expanded its emergency department to hold more patients who can't immediately be admitted, Dr. Kline said.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Wolfson Children's Hospital is also preparing for a potential surge. The facility admitted 96 COVID-19 patients in July, nearly double its previous high recorded in January. Mobeen Rathore, MD, the hospital's chief of infectious diseases, said he expects the facility to see an increase in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, amid a rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases. Over the last few weeks, Dr. Rathore and his team have educated staff on how to identify and treat the rare COVID-19 complication.

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