‘Our younger patients are most affected’: Experts react to rising child COVID hospitalizations across country

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — As the highly-transmissible omicron variant continues to spread, doctors have seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Children across the country are being hospitalized with the virus at record numbers. Doctors in Eastern North Carolina said we are seeing more cases in children. Only a small percentage of those kids have a severe illness.

“The omicron variant is spreading pretty dramatically throughout the region, but especially here in Eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Matthew Ledoux, a pediatrician in chief at Maynard Children’s Hospital. “We’re seeing it among all age groups, but our younger patients are most affected.”

Last week, almost 400 children per day were hospitalized across the country for the virus. The CDC said that’s a 66 percent jump from the previous week.

Dr. Ledoux said we aren’t seeing those drastic numbers in our area.

“For pediatric patients, we’ve seen kind of a steady stream of positive patients coming into the hospital, some with more mild illness,” he said. “We have seen kind of a steady small percentage of the population going into the intensive care unit.”

This spike in cases comes as many school systems are preparing to welcome children back to the classroom.

“I still believe very firmly and very passionately, not only as an educator but as a parent, that our students belong in the classroom,” said Miguel Cardona, U.S. education secretary.

Cardona said getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and getting tested will help keep students in the building.

“We do believe our schools can remain open,” he said. “We have to stay vigilant, we have to stay focused, and those mitigation strategies that work, and we have to continue to work together to give our students a chance to learn.”

On Monday night, the Pitt County Board of Education voted to reinstate a mask mandate for students and employees. Several other districts in Eastern North Carolina are meeting to make those decisions Tuesday and in the coming days.

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