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South Florida children’s hospitals report uptick in COVID-19 cases

17 children currently hospitalized at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, including 1 on ventilator

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcos Mestre told Local 10 News Friday that they are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases among children.
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcos Mestre told Local 10 News Friday that they are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases among children.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcos Mestre told Local 10 News Friday that they are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases among children.

“Right now in the hospital, we have 17 patients who are COVID-positive. Six of them are in our ICU, one of them on a ventilator,” he said.

Holtz Children’s Hospital is also seeing uptick in positive cases with kids. They currently have five pediatric hospitalizations. Of those, two are in the ICU.

Holtz Children’s Hospital CMO Dr. Barry Gelman said while the hospital is seeing “more kids testing positive for COVID” at all ages, from infants to adolescents, the numbers in hospitalizations have “roughly stayed the same.”

“For example, our positivity rate in the Holtz emergency department in the month of June was 2.4%,” he said. “And by the end of July, we are 14%, so the virus is circulating more and kids are getting infected.”

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital confirmed they had seven patients with COVID-19, as of Friday. Of the seven, two are in the Pediatric ICU.

Mestre said they are seeing an increase in visits both to the Nicklaus Children’s hospital’s emergency room and to their urgent care centers.

He said the highest risk factor for children is obesity.

The average age of children hospitalized from COVID-19 is 12.

“But the children who have the highest complexities are going to be our older patients,” he said.

Mestre said he advises parents to make sure their children are wearing masks when indoors and try to avoid their children from having any close interactions.

For those 12 and older, he said if parents plan to have their child fully vaccinated in time for the start of school, they will want to get that first dose now.

Mestre says today’s situation is similar to what they were seeing early on in the year before any children were vaccinated.

“Again, we don’t know when we are going to peak,” he said.

Mestre said we are typically about 4 to 6 weeks behind the U.K.

“And we still probably are on an uptrend, so it could be that we are seeing as many patients as we did in July in 2020 when that was our peak, so we are keeping a close eye on it,” he said. “Again, we haven’t had 17 patients in the hospital in quite some time, so it is something we are definitely concerned about and trying to get the message out to get your vaccines and using appropriate measures to avoid infections.”

One variable driving up the numbers is the highly contagious Delta variant.

“It is much more infectious than what we were seeing a year ago,” Mestre said.

Plus, there is no vaccine currently available for children under 12. And for those 12 and older, data points to low vaccination rates.

“Even though the vaccine is available for (children) 12 and older -- I just checked the state’s statistics this morning -- only 35 percent of adolescents between 12 and 19 years old are vaccinated, so we have a way to go,” Gelman said.

“And it’s important to start those vaccinations if you haven’t right now because school is right around the corner,” Mestre said. “So typically it is you get your first dose and your second dose three weeks out, and then you need two weeks to be fully protected. You have about a five week timeframe to be fully protected and that’s right in time with the school year starting.”

Gelman said it’s crucial for those around children who eligible to receive the vaccine, including parents, grandparents, babysitters and tutors, do so in order to provide protection to those children.

“Also make sure their other immunizations are up to date,” he added. “A lot of kids during lockdown missed their check-ups and are behind in their routine immunizations, which protect against a lot of bad diseases. So I would remind parents to make sure immunizations are up to date before kids go back to school, and then following the CDC guidelines.”

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is offering the Pfizer vaccine to those ages 12 to 21 who reside in the state of Florida.

No appointment is needed. Those who wish to get vaccinated may go to the main campus between 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and between 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit https://www.nicklauschildrens.org/covid-19-vaccines.


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."