South Florida children’s hospitals seeing uptick in COVID-positive patients

South Florida has three main hospitals for kids: Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Holtz Children's Hospital and Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – South Florida has three main hospitals for kids — Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Holtz Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

On Monday, Local 10 News’ Ian Margol spoke with the chief medical officers for all three, and they said they’re seeing thousands of pediatric COVID-19 cases come through their emergency departments at a rate much higher than even what they saw at the peak of the delta variant.

“The number of positive children that have come through our emergency department is much larger than any other month that we’ve seen during the pandemic,” said Dr. Ron Ford, CMO for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “In August, during the midst of delta, we saw about 429 positive cases through the emergency department. In December alone we saw almost 720.”

It’s a concerning trend as more and more kids are becoming infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

“It’s clear that there is tremendous spread in the community,” said Dr. Barry Gelman, CMO for Holtz Children’s Hospital.

In fact, at Nicklaus’ locations throughout Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, about 340 kids tested positive in just one day last week.

There is good news, though.

“Thankfully most of these cases are mild cases and children don’t require hospitalization,” said Dr. Marcos Mestre, CMO for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “The percentage risk of hospitalization is less but because of the sheer volume of patients we’re seeing as positive we are seeing an increase in the raw number of admissions in the hospital and throughout the country.”

Additionally, all three chief medical officers say that of the kids who are admitted, a significant number are actually going to the hospital for something other than COVID-19 and they just happen to test positive when they get there.

“We have 14 pediatric inpatients, five of those are in intensive care but none are on a ventilator,” Gelman said. “And what we’re seeing consistently is that most of the children admitted are actually admitted for another reason other than specific COVID symptoms.

“It’s only about 25-30 percent, typically, who have COVID symptoms, and as I said a minute ago, those have tended to be mild so far.”

Added Mestre: “We have in total within our hospital today about 30 patients that have a positive COVID test, so it’s still about 20 or so are here because of COVID and we actually have eight patients in our ICU with COVID and because of COVID.”

All three chief medical officers also mentioned that the majority of kids coming in positive with COVID who are showing respiratory symptoms right now are younger than five, meaning they’re not vaccinated because they aren’t old enough to receive them.

“The majority of the pediatric population that’s coming through Joe DiMaggio and are COVID positive are younger,” Ford said. “In fact, two and under make up the vast majority of the patients that are positive.”

They said the best thing parents can do to keep their children safe is to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a high-quality mask in public places, and avoid crowded indoor spaces as much as possible.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.