Pediatric COVID hospitalizations increase just as children get ready to go back to school

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Doctors in South Florida are reporting a surge in pediatric COVID cases just as students are preparing to go back to school.

At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Broward County, pediatricians treated just over 20 children with COVID in June and more than 240 children with COVID in July. In just the first 10 days of August, they have treated 160 children with COVID. There were five children in the Intensive Care Unit on Tuesday.

Dr. Marcelo Laufer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said there is also a rise in COVID cases at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade County. On Tuesday, pediatricians were treating 25 COVID patients, including 18 who were in regular admissions and seven who remained in ICU.

“None of the patients who were admitted to the hospital, who are over the age of 12, are vaccinated,” Laufer said, adding he is concerned about “children going to daycares, camps and soon starting schools.”

Laufer said many of the pediatric patients who are 12 and older have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Dr. Joshua Lenchus, the chief medical officer at Broward Health, said the situation is changing quickly.

“Last year, we didn’t see this tremendous explosion of kids,” Lenchus said.

Dr. Hany Atallah, the chief medical officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said the Delta variant, the dominant coronavirus mutation in the U.S., is to blame. He said doctors are seeing higher viral loads and more transmissibility. More patients who don’t have the protection of a vaccine are experiencing more severe symptoms.

“It’s a daily challenge,” Atallah said.

Children continue to have a decreased rate of hospital admissions than adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, and the Children’s Hospital Association, or CHA, also reported there was a “substantial” increase in pediatric COVID cases nationwide. Florida had the second cumulative number of child COVID-19 cases in the country after California, according to the report.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved vaccines for children under 12 years old. Dr. Lee Savio Beers, the president of AAP, sent an Aug. 5 letter to the FDA reporting that since the pandemic began, children have represented 14.3% of total cumulated cases, and for the week ending July 29, children were 19% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

“The higher proportion of cases in this population means this age group could be contributing in driving the continued spread of COVID-19,” she wrote. “Sadly, over 350 children have died of COVID.”

Total pediatric patients hospitalized in Florida: Reporting cutoff was Aug. 5 and updated on Aug. 10.

Confirmed and suspected COVIDConfirmed and suspected COVID coverageConfirmed COVIDConfirmed COVID coveragePrevious day admission pediatric COVID confirmedPrevious day admission pediatric COVID suspected

Source: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ data from tele-tracking.

Florida’s child COVID-19 case data available Aug. 5: (As of 6/24/21, FDOH stopped reporting child hospitalizations)

Age rangeChild population 2019Cumulative child cases% children of total casesCumulative total casesCases for 100,000 children

Source: AAP and CHA joint report

Florida’s mortality data available as of Aug. 5

State officials report 39,695 people have died of COVID in Florida, including 175 who died during the week of July 30-Aug. 5.

Age rangeCumulative COVID deaths
Under 167

Source: Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report (Aug. 6)

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.