DENVER — New cases of COVID-19 are surging across the country, driven by the omicron variant, and more children are getting sick with COVID, too.
In Colorado, the number of kids hospitalized with the virus doubled in just the past week.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said 58 children under age 17 were in hospitals across the state battling the virus (4.5% of total hospitalizations). Last week, that number was 25 pediatric patients (2.4% of total hospitalizations).
“Omicron is so much more transmissible than the delta variant that so many more children are getting exposed and infected,” Dr. Sam Dominguez, pediatric infectious disease physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said. “That results in an absolute more number of kids getting infected and admitted into the hospital.”
Representatives from Children’s did not share the hospital’s exact COVID patient count Tuesday, but Dominguez said they are very busy.
“We’re seeing the most patients we’ve ever seen here hospitalized, in any time in the pandemic, over the last two years,” he said.
It’s a similar story at pediatricians' offices.
“We’ve never had this many in such a short period of time,” said Dr. James Campbell, a pediatrician at Denver West Pediatrics in Golden.
“We’ve now seen a number of kids, unfortunately, getting COVID multiple times. We’ve had a few families, if you can believe it, that had delta infections in November at Thanksgiving. Then literally after recovering from delta, they go into a new set of omicron cases.”
Children ages 5 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and just this week the FDA approved booster shots for children 12-15.
Campbell said he has vaccinated pediatric patients experiencing breakthrough COVID infections, but said those cases have been “quite mild.” For his unvaccinated patients who get infected, he said the symptoms are “on average more miserable.”
Most children are recovering from COVID without needing hospital care. But Campbell said the disruption to families’ lives is still significant.
“The medical issues are significant, but the emotional burden is probably even more significant,” he said. “Our families, they are exhausted. They are calling in favors at work. They are worried, anticipatory about returning to school.”
“I think this is the time we really need to buckle down on our public health intervention,” Dominguez said. “This is not the time to let up on those.”
Dominguez said vaccination is still the best course of protection from the virus. He said the hospital also supports use of masks in indoor, congregate settings (like schools), and supports a program offered at some schools that uses testing to keep kids in class.
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