The number of Texas children hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high over the weekend, with 345 on Saturday and 307 on Sunday, the highest two-day stretch on record during the pandemic, according to Texas Department of State data. State Health Services.
The data follows a national trend of increasing pediatric COVID hospital admissions. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, shows the highest rate of increase in teens and children ages 0-4. The study also found that unvaccinated adolescents were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to their vaccinated peers.
Children under 12 are not eligible for any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
School reopenings and “pandemic fatigue” are two major reasons for the statewide increase, said Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas and author of the popular “Your Local Epidemiologist” blog.
“The more kids interact with each other, the more this is going to broadcast,” she said, adding, “We really need to step up our mask game. Parents really need to invest in good masks to wear at school.”
She urged parents to buy N95 masks for their children and “lead by example” with their own mask-wearing habits.
Multiple studies have shown that masks help reduce the transmission of COVID indoors. The CDC study also recommends universal masking in schools, where Texas cases are rising. The state health department recorded 51,904 COVID cases among Texas students as of Aug. 29 since the start of the 2021-22 school year.
According to DSHS and local district reports, five districts in the Houston area have already reported more cases of COVID-19 among students in the first few weeks of school than in the entire year before. Some districts in the Houston area have already temporarily suspended face-to-face learning due to contamination and student absences, as well as staff shortages.
Mask rules vary in Texas school districts. Some districts are waiting for a government ban on mask mandates to address ongoing legal challenges. Others, such as the Houston Independent School District, have introduced face covering requirements.
So far, HISD has performed well compared to other districts reporting COVID outbreaks. However, rising student numbers continue to strain the capacity of children’s hospitals in the region.
dr. James Versalovic, interim chief pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital, said three of the system’s campuses have deployed emergency mobile units to expand outpatient capacity.
Texas Children’s is facing a “high plateau” of children battling the virus, with about 50 COVID patients being treated on any given day, he said. The hospital’s test data consistently shows a high positivity of 15 percent. The vast majority of hospitalized teens are not vaccinated, Versalovic said.
“Basically, we have the vaccine wall protecting the vaccinated teens, while the unvaccinated clearly continue to suffer from severe COVID infections requiring hospital care,” he said.
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