Charleston’s largest children’s hospital saw more COVID-19 patients over the last two months than at any point earlier in the pandemic, according to a new report. The virus is affecting kids to the extent that doctors say a fundamental rethink is needed.
August and September were particularly bad months when it came to the rate of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in children at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), with roughly 40% of infections since the start of the pandemic occurring in the two-month span, according to the hospital.
“This really shows how contagious the delta variant is,” Dr. Allison Eckard, division chief for pediatric infectious diseases at MUSC, said during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “And what’s more is that we have seen an increase in the severity of illness — more kids requiring ventilation and ECMO,” a last-resort form of life support.
Seventy-four children were admitted due to COVID-19 complications, according to the MUSC report. Of those, 14 were put on ventilators. Four required ECMO assistance, which involves a machine that oxygenates the blood when a person’s lungs aren’t working.
Eckard says the delta variant, paired with the beginning of the school year, were leading the surge. From the first day of school, Aug. 18, until the end of September, the number of COVID cases reached more than 2,300, 83% of the total for the entire previous school year, which saw about 2,790 cases.
Eckard said there is also a misconception that children without underlying conditions are not at risk of severe infection.
“That is in line with what we saw in the beginning, but we are really seeing a shift now,” she said. “You cannot always predict who is going to have the most severe type of infection.”
Many of the children hospitalized were eligible to receive a COVID vaccination, said Dr. Elizabeth Mack, who urges everyone eligible get the vaccine.