With Delta variant increasing pediatric COVID cases in Broward, doctors recommend face masks and vaccines

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is recommending children wear a face mask in public if they are older than two years old and get the protection of the COVID vaccine if they are older than 12 years old.

Their recommendation to parents in Broward County on Wednesday comes just as the hospital reports there is an ongoing surge in pediatric COVID cases and as students are preparing to go back to public schools on Aug. 18.

Anthony Sanders, the emergency room nurse manager at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, said children usually get sick after they return to school. He is bracing for more COVID cases.

“Traditionally, once they go back is when they start to come in to see us, you know basically the normal colds and things like that, but when you throw COVID into the mix, we don’t know what flu is going to look like, and the other childhood viruses and illnesses that they normally get,” Sanders said. “It’s just a lot scarier this time.”

Dr. Ronald Ford, the chief medical officer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, said the children who are infected with the Delta variant of the coronavirus are experiencing more severe symptoms. The hospital treated just over 20 pediatric COVID cases in June, more than 240 in July, and so far has had nearly 160 in August.

“We are well on our way to breaking July’s record,” Ford said on Wednesday.

Ford wants parents to consider the science behind the protections that face masks and vaccines are able to provide for their children to remain healthy.

“Masking has been shown to reduce the incidence of transmission and reduce the chances of children getting COVID-19,” Ford said. “I highly recommend that the vaccine be given. This is again another layer of safety that we can offer our children.”

Hospitalization data shows the likelihood of a child landing in the hospital with COVID remains much lower for children than adults. For the week ending Aug. 5, children were 15% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases in the country. A study supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in May showed the hospitalization frequency for children was 5.3%, with 17.6% needing critical care services and 4.1% requiring mechanical ventilation.

Researchers found 16.5% of pediatric COVID patients presented with respiratory symptoms, 13.9% had gastrointestinal symptoms, 8.1% had dermatological symptoms, and 4.8% had neurological symptoms. Researchers also found 18.8% of the children experienced symptoms such as fever, malaise, myalgia, arthralgia, and disturbances of smell or taste.

Vulnerable high-risk patients at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital are receiving infusions of monoclonal antibodies, or mAb, man-made proteins that can help children fight off COVID and reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization when administered soon after diagnosis.

“Right now it’s approved for children 12 and older. Now, it’s not for every child. It’s really for children who have significant underlying medical conditions,” Ford said.

Most children with COVID have been spared from developing long-term symptoms, but epidemiologists around the world are tracking some rare cases. Researchers found some children are experiencing lingering issues such as muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

Pediatric hospitalizations on Wednesday

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade County279
Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade County6 on respiratory support
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Broward County95

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)

Related stories

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.