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Cleveland Children's Hospitals Concerned Kids COVID Admissions Increasing

A doctor gives a child a COVID-19 nasal swab test. COVID-19 cases in children are increasing. [24K-Production / Shutterstock]
A doctor gives a child a COVID-19 nasal swab test. COVID-19 cases in children are increasing. [24K-Production / Shutterstock]

Over the course of the pandemic, many have downplayed the effect of COVID-19 on children.

But officials from two Cleveland pediatric hospitals signed Children’s Hospital Association (CHA ) letter warning of a surge in COVID-19 cases in children and a surge in children’s hospital admissions.

“What we are seeing across the country, particularly in the south, is that many of our children’s hospitals are beginning to experience pretty large surges in the amount of children who had contracted COVID and required either inpatient services or outpatient services,” UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital President Patti DePompei said.

DePompei, along with many other hospital leaders, including Physician-in-Chief Dr. Karen Murray of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, urged Congress and the White House to give more support for children’s hospitals.

The letter, which was published as full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, encouraged all eligible Americans, which includes children age 12 and older, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our children's health care safety net is under unprecedented strain. Children's hospitals and their dedicated staff are doing their part, and we hope every American, the White House and Congress can help,” CHA's CEO Mark Wietecha said in the letter. "Given the situation on the ground, we are reaching out to draw further attention to the challenges we face that affect our kids. Our children's hospitals provide care to all children who need it, and with support directed to pediatric capacity, they can continue to meet that commitment."

The delta variant of COVID-19 is more contagious, and pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Claudia Hoyen said that is likely leading to more cases in kids.

“Some people think that we’re seeing this many kids just because so many more children are getting infected with delta,” she said. “We may be starting to see more severe disease in adults and children.”

Over the course of the pandemic, many have minimized the effect of COVID-19 on children, but Hoyen said that’s a myth, as about 400 children have died of COVID-19 across the country.

“Statistically, is your child, are they going to do ok? More than likely yes,” Hoyen said. “But I can tell you that if it is your child who ends up in the ICU on a ventilator, which we’ve seen, if it’s your child who develops MIS-C, which is that inflammatory syndrome that we see in the kids and ends up on a bypass life-support machine if it’s your child who develops long-haul syndrome, which we’ve been seeing in kids, with an uptick as more kids are getting it. Some of these kids can’t even function for months at a time after they develop what may have been a very mild case of COVID.”

“The chances are, your child will be ok, but if something does happen to your child, it can be fatal,” Hoyen said.

UH Leads New Pandemic Network

UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital also recently received a grant to establish a pediatric pandemic network.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded more than $48 million to UH Rainbow to establish a Regional Pediatric Pandemic Network that will support the planning and preparation of child health care facilities to respond to pandemics and other global health threats.

It’s the largest grant UH Rainbow has received in its history, according to the press release issued Monday. UH will lead the new Regional Pediatric Pandemic Network. The money will be used across five hospital systems including UH,  University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital, University of Louisville School of Medicine Norton Children’s Hospital, University of Utah Primary Children’s Hospital, and St. Louis University Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

Although the network is called regional, it’s a national effort from regions across the United States, said Dr. Charles Macias, Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Chief Quality Officer at UH Rainbow.

“The regional concept there is that we’re actually creating a network of five children’s hospitals that create a hub-and-spoke model, so one can think of it as bringing a number of regional best practices into a national network,” Macias said.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind for everyone right now, Macias said this collaboration started before the pandemic and will continue even after it’s not a top story. The network will share information, as well as respond to any disasters, including natural disasters or pandemics.

“Disasters rarely respect state boundaries, so our ability to know that the needs of children can be met in Intensive Care Units right across the border or two states down all becomes important,” he said.

Macias said children represent a quarter of the population, so children’s health should be an important part of health care in the United States.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158