Florida children’s hospitals see pediatric COVID-19 cases soar
The number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations among children is rising in Florida as the state faces a surge in cases due in part to the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, 46 pediatric patients were admitted to Florida hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of pediatric coronavirus patients in the state to 135, according to hospital capacity data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Florida is behind only Texas in the current number of children hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the Lone Star State recording a total of 142 as of Tuesday.
According to a Miami Herald analysis of weekly COVID-19 case data, the sharpest increase of Florida COVID-19 infections over the past month has been among children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible to receive any of the three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S.
The two-shot Pfizer vaccine has been authorized in the country for people as young as 12 years old.
Ronald Ford, chief medical officer for Memorial Healthcare System’s Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., told the Herald that its emergency rooms are seeing more symptomatic cases among children than during previous COVID-19 surges.
“In our previous iteration of the pandemic, it was more they’re positive but they’re not sick or minimally sick,” he explained. “This is different. … There’s a much higher percentage of pediatric patients becoming infected and symptomatic.”
In the past week, Florida has repeatedly broken records for daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and as of Tuesday accounted for roughly 1 in 5 new cases nationally.
As of Wednesday, there have been a total of 2.6 million infections in the Sunshine State, along with nearly 40,000 fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite the latest surge, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has pushed back against implementing a statewide mask mandate or vaccination requirements, and has even signed directives banning mask mandates in public schools and preventing businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
While the CDC has said that children are at less risk to develop severe illnesses from COVID-19, the agency updated its guidance this week to recommend that all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools wear masks upon returning to the classroom this fall, regardless of vaccination status.
The guidance follows recent similar recommendations unveiled by the agency for all people to wear masks indoors in areas across the country with “high” or “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission, based on new data showing that vaccinated people may be able to spread the delta variant to unvaccinated people.