The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the U.S. population, has caused hospitalizations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of confirmed and suspected pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations to 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Reuters includes confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases for hospitalization, case and death data.
Children currently make up about 2.4% of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.
The numbers of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 also hit record highs this week, according to data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The spike in new cases has ramped up tension between conservative state leaders and local districts over whether school children should be required to wear masks as they head back to the classroom this month.
School districts in Florida, Texas and Arizona have mandated that masks be worn in schools, defying orders from their Republican state governors that ban districts from imposing such rules. The administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funding from districts that impose mask requirements, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott is appealing to the state Supreme Court to overturn Dallas County’s mask mandate, the Dallas Morning News reported on Friday.
The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, came out in support of mandatory vaccination for its members this week. NEA President Becky Pringle said on Saturday that schools should employ every mitigation strategy, from vaccines to masks, to ensure that students can come back to their classrooms safely this school year.
“Our students under 12 can’t get vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” Pringle told CNN.
Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oregon have reported record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations this month, according to a Reuters tally, pushing healthcare systems to operate beyond their capacity.
“Our hospitals are working to maximize their available staff and beds, including the use of conference rooms and cafeterias,” Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said in a statement on Friday.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown said on Friday that she was sending 500 National Guard members to assist overwhelmed hospitals, with 1,500 members in total available to help.
Fifteen children and 99 adults were hospitalized with COVID-19 at UMMC as of Saturday morning, the hospital said. More than 77% of those patients were unvaccinated.
(Refiling Aug 14 story to make clear in the second paragraph that the 1,902 hospitalizations includes both confirmed and suspected cases)
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