HOUSTON (KXAN) — The Texas Children’s Hospital reported three new records this weekend related to children getting sick with COVID-19 caused mostly by the rapidly-spreading omicron variant.
The hospital shared Monday it’s currently treating almost 70 children infected by COVID-19 — the most ever since the pandemic began almost two years ago. Dr. Jim Versalovic, the hospital’s pathologist in chief, said a third of those hospitalizations are among children younger than five years of age, a population that is not yet eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re dealing with an extremely contagious variant that is spreading much more rapidly,” Dr. Versalovic said during a virtual news conference.
The number of pediatric hospitalizations from COVID-19 nearly quintupled in three weeks time. Two Mondays ago, Dr. Versalovic said the Texas Children’s Hospital had 15 children infected with the coronavirus in its care, while that number jumped to 30 last Monday.
Additionally, the hospital reported almost 700 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, which is another record set this weekend. Dr. Versalovic said more advanced sequencing revealed 90% of those cases are caused by the omicron variant.
Among the coronavirus tests administered this weekend by Texas Children’s Hospital, doctors said the positivity rate is now more than 30% — another record driven by the omicron variant.
First co-infection of flu and COVID-19
The Texas Children’s Hospital confirmed its first co-infection of influenza and COVID-19 in a child who is now recovering at home and should be fine. Doctors reminded parents they and their children should get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, highlighting both shots can safely be given at the same time.
Dr. Versalovic said Monday almost all of the current pediatric hospitalizations are among patients who are unvaccinated.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Monday it authorized Pfizer booster shots for people ages 12 to 15 years, another expansion in the population eligible for the third shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will next need to approve the expansion of the booster eligibility to this younger group. Experts predict a decision on that should come later this week.
Among the children hospitalized right now with COVID-19 at Texas Children’s Hospital, doctors said they’re seeing viral pneumonia and respiratory stress even in kids under the age of two. However, they said more study is needed to determine if the omicron variant is causing more severe disease among children and adult patients. What Dr. Versalovic does say with certainty is that omicron can spread much more quickly than any other variant of the virus.
He also said he expects the omicron surge to peak in January.
Doctors urged parents Monday to have their children wear masks when they return to school this week from the holiday break and keep them home if they’re showing any symptoms to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.