HOUSTON — Texas Children's Hospital in Houston announced Monday that at "close to 70" patients, it has surpassed its summer Delta surge for pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations.
This number is a stark increase compared to just two weeks ago, when the hospital was reporting 15 kids hospitalized with COVID-19. That number doubled to 30 last week, and more than doubled again today, the hospital said in a news conference over Zoom.
Statewide, the number of children hospitalized has risen to 279, up from 69 three weeks ago.
A third of those hospitalized for COVID are under the age of 5 at Texas Children’s. Most of the patients are unvaccinated, just due to their age, and 90% of the confirmed cases are omicron variant cases, the hospital said.
The hospital's positivity rate is "hovering around 30%."
“We have staggering numbers during this omicron surge already," said Dr. Jim Versalovic, the pathologist-in-chief & COVID-19 command center co-leader at the hospital. “Omicron is extremely contagious; more contagious than Delta, in the category of measles virus.”
Versalovic also said the hospital diagnosed one child with a case of coinfection of COVID and the flu. Fortunately, RSV and flu cases remain relatively low and they believe they have plenty of beds.
The vast majority of the hospital's COVID patients are hospitalized due to virus, not for other issues, according to Versalovic.
He said fully vaccinated and masked children should feel safe about returning to in-person learning this week.
“The only immediate protection is masking," he said. "We need to continue to promote masking in schools, masking when children are out and about and particularly in crowded indoor spaces.”
Dallas ISD will continue to require masks. Lancaster ISD will return virtually only, and other districts have taken their own steps with COVID spreading far faster than ever before.
Hospital officials urged people to get tested for COVID-19 at testing sites and not the hospital.
“We’re in a much better position this January versus last January with vaccinations and boosters now," he said.
And as many parents gauge the risk for their kids as a new school semester starts, Versalovic urges vaccination.
"We can’t waste any time in vaccinating adolescents, adults and school-aged children," he said. “Many of [our COVID patients] have underlying health conditions but some of them do not have a known underlying health condition. It’s hard to predict who will need to be hospitalized.”
This news comes on the same day that the state of Texas reported 184,012 total new cases since Dec 30. At the same time, the positivity rate has shot to a record 33.9%. Prior to the surge, the record was 20.8% Hospitalizations are at 7,015, up 142% in one month.
Locally, Cook Children's in Fort Worth reported 26 COVID-19 patients, two of which are in the ICU. The hospital is reporting an average rolling COIVD positivity rate of 29.6% over the course of the last week.
The week of Dec. 12, Dallas Children’s had 79 kids test positive. The week of the Dec. 26 the hospital had 717 children test positive, and a reported 49 are now hospitalized.