“We have staggering numbers here from this Omicron surge already,” Dr. Jim Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s, said Monday. “We shattered prior records that were established during the Delta surge in August.”
“We are seeing more Covid now than we have seen in previous waves,” said Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, “and it’s worrisome that the worst of the winter here has not passed, and we are bracing for what is still to come.”
Noting that some children who have coronavirus may be seeking medical care for other conditions yet testing positive, Bracho-Sanchez told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday it is evident from what she has seen in New York City that more children there have Covid-19 than ever before.
“We would be foolish to keep minimizing Covid-19 in children at this point in the pandemic,” she said.
Early research suggests Omicron may cause more upper airway problems, unlike previous strains that caused lower airway problems. However, upper airway conditions can be more dangerous for children than adults.
“We cannot treat the airways of children like they are the airways of adults,” she said. “It’s just not the way it works. And for us pediatricians, we know that respiratory viruses can lead to … croup and bronchiolitis, that inflammation of the upper airways that does get in children in trouble.”
Versalovic said Monday of the children at their facility needing care, “It’s clear that the majority of cases either have Covid-19 as a primary factor or as a significant contributing factor to their hospitalization.”
Cumulative hospitalization rates through November are about eight times higher for unvaccinated adults and about 10 times higher for unvaccinated children ages 12 to 17, according to CDC data.
Booster eligibility expands to more teens
The agency also shortened the time needed before receiving a booster shot from at least six months after completion of the initial series to at least five months, for everyone 12 and older.
About 5 million of the ages-12-to-15 population have been fully vaccinated for more than five months and are now eligible to receive a booster shot, according to the CDC.
“This is the time that’s the most dangerous for our children and the entire pandemic because of how widespread Covid is. There is just virus everywhere. Please get your children vaccinated,” she said, adding that school-age children who are inoculated will contribute to protecting younger siblings through lowered risks of infection.
“That is the whole idea of herd immunity, to protect those who need our help the most,” she said.
‘We’re not in a good place’
“We’re not in a good place, I’m going to be really honest with you,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday. “This is the winter surge we predicted.”
Regarding the high rate of infections overall, “the severity of the illness is far less than we’ve seen before,” she said, yet the number of those hospitalized is going up.
And Nevada is “seeing an alarming number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations reported after the end of the year holidays,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “My team is continuing to analyze the numbers and we are working with health districts and other partners to provide resources to combat the surge we are facing.”
CNN’s Miguel Marquez, Maggie Fox, Katherine Dillinger, Jen Christensen, Deidre McPhillips, Holly Yan, Christina Maxouris, Kristina Sgueglia, Laura Ly and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.