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Health leaders address rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations among children

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 11:56 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 8, again heard a plea from Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns to consider a temporary masking order. The commission didn’t take action, but the discussion comes as nationally, children are making up a growing percentage of new COVID-19 cases, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At Wednesday’s county commission meeting, Dr. Minns reported Wichita’s main hospitals are treating more children with serious cases of COVID-19 related illnesses. He said proportionately, those hospitalization numbers are lower than adults, but this wasn’t something as prevalent earlier in the pandemic.

“Last week, we had mover a quarter of a million new infections in children. They composed 27 percent of new cases,” said Dr. Gregory Poland with the Mayo Clinic, addressing a surge in the U.S. with the COVID-19 delta variant in young patients. “(That) is a number far higher than anything we’ve seen with this virus.”

Among the new infections are cases requiring hospitalizations, including in pediatric units in Wichita.

Dr. Julie Elder with GraceMed said seeing the surge in cases among children is concerning.

“We are seeing children getting very sick with the delta variant. Many children have been hospitalized because of this strain,” she said. “It’s these kiddos who are very vulnerable.”

Dr. Elder said while the vaccine is here to provide a defense for children 12 and older the younger children are relying on distancing, hand washing and masking to keep them healthy.

“It certainly creates a barrier against droplets and it can absolutely help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in those classrooms,” she said of the masks.

That’s what schools in Sedgwick County are contending with, said Sedgwick County Commissioner Sarah Lopez. At Wednesday’s meeting, she said school superintendents in the county reported 4,000 students who were in some form of quarantine last week.

“Overwhelmed. They are begging us to do something,” she said. “Last week, they were saying it was like a wildfire, it’s lit. It’s started and they don’t know what to do to slow it down.

Dr. Elder said with the goal being to keep kids in school, everyone has to do their part, especially as cold and flu season approaches.

“We’re also seeing RSV in children, so just global health for children is so important right now,” she said.

On Wednesday, Dr. Minns also pointed to the relatively low vaccination rate in Sedgwick County as something that needs improved. HE said the COVID-19 case level being seen in the county is on par with rates from last November and December.

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