Colorado hospital sees 'historic' pediatric admissions — and it's not just COVID-19

Aurora-based Children's Hospital Colorado is seeing unusually high pediatric hospitalizations as respiratory illnesses that typically peak in the winter emerge earlier and COVID-19 rates among children remain high, reports The Gazette.

"Fortunately, we here at Children's Hospital Colorado have been able to meet the recent surge, but we're in a difficult moment in time," Sean O'Leary, MD, infectious disease physician and director of pediatric research at the hospital, told reporters Oct. 14. "Respiratory viruses that we normally see during the winter are at very high levels right now, and those combined with children with COVID-19 have led to a pretty full hospital."

Children's is still accepting out-of-state transfers and hasn't hit capacity, Mike DiStefano, MD, CMO at Children's Colorado Springs campus, told The Gazette.

Colorado pediatric COVID-19 rates have been higher than any other age group during this surge, which began in August, reports The Gazette. Dr. O'Leary said September infection rates were higher for children than any other point of the pandemic.

"With well over 500 pediatric deaths as I speak, COVID-19 fits squarely in the top 10 causes of childhood deaths in the U.S.," Dr. O'Leary said. Children's has treated more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients and several deaths, he said.

Beginning in August, RSV has already hit unprecedented highs, despite normally peaking in winter. Rhinovirus is also circulating, and COVID-19 surges are driven by the delta variant, children returning to school and inability to receive a vaccine.  

"This is historic. This doesn't happen," Dr. DiStefano said. "I've been doing this for 15, 18-plus years, and this is not when we see our respiratory surge. It's really, highly unusual." 

He also said the various respiratory illnesses are "all equal at this point" in terms of pediatric hospitalizations and hospital visits, noting that one is not more extreme than the other.

Nearby, Denver-based Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, while not at capacity, is "certainly very full, depending on the day," spokesperson Stephanie Sullivan wrote in an Oct. 13 email to The Gazette. "It's really a combination of a variety of medical, surgical and respiratory cases, but not predominantly COVID."

If pediatric hospitalizations continue to trend upward as flu season picks up, "it could get pretty difficult for our community," Dr. DiStefano said. 


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