More Tennessee children fill hospitals now than ever during the pandemic

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee reports nearly 5,500 new COVID cases Wednesday. 844 of those are among children ten and younger.

Pediatric doctors like Joseph Gigante share the same concern, “Our big worry is that things are going to get worse before they get better.”

It’s a numbers game, says Gigante who is just one of several local doctors who explain the more people who have COVID-19 increases the number of those who will need hospital care. The same holds true for children.

“We’re seeing our hospitals filled,” explains Dr. Buddy Creech Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “While before that was really just our adult hospitals in the area, we’re now seeing more children than ever before hospitalized.”

Dr. Creech explains what’s changed is the more contagious Delta variant has caused a rapid spike in transmission. “It wasn’t but a few weeks ago that we had zero active cases in Williamson County and very few in Davidson County, and yet now we’re in the thousands.”

Included in those case numbers are more school-aged students – many too young to get vaccinated.

“We’re starting to see healthier kids have more significant illness than they did prior in the pandemic,” Creech says.

Although doctors still say a majority of children who catch covid will not require hospitalization.

“The issue is you just don’t know which child is going to not need any supportive care verses which child is going to need to get admitted,” Dr. Gigante says.

Just a few weeks into the school year and there are more than 1,000 confirmed COVID cases in Middle Tennessee schools and hundreds quarantined for exposure.

“We know that children being in school is far better than children having to learn online. In order to do that, it makes sense for us to institute a few mitigation measures,” explains Dr. Creech.

For the next few months, Creech suggests limiting close-contact extracurricular activities, mandatory masking, social distancing, and keeping kids home if they’re sick.

“Those schools are going to navigate the next couple of weeks better than those who are largely unmasked and not talking any strategies to stop the spread of the virus.”

As far as COVID vaccines for children younger than 12, there’s still several more months left in clinical trial before a recommendation can be made.

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