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North Texas pediatric hospitals now 99% full as COVID, RSV and flu cases spike

Hospitals are encouraging families to call their pediatricians before going to the ER. Cook Children's is seeing a patient every two minutes.

DALLAS — If it feels like there’s something – or multiple things – going around right now, it’s because it there is.

At Pediatric Healthcare Associates of McKinney, Dr. Catherine Frank is getting so many calls, their lines are jammed each morning.

“I’ve been in private practice here for 21 years and it’s, I would say, the busiest I’ve seen,” Frank said.

Across the metroplex at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Dr. Laura Romano said they check in a patient every one to two minutes.

“Things have been pretty busy and hectic here,” she said. “Now nobody is wearing a mask anymore so we’re getting a lot of people who maybe haven’t been exposed to RSV or the flu for the past two seasons.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said Friday that in the past week flu hospitalizations have gone up 30% and COVID hospitalizations are up 70%. Pediatric hospitals are now 98.9% full.

“Keep your kids home if they’re sick,” Romano said. “Teach them to cough into their elbows and sneeze into their hands and then wash their hand immediately afterwards.”

Fort Worth ISD is no longer immediately requiring a doctor’s note if kids are sick. Instead, the district’s guidance is to contact the attendance office to report the absence and then get a note to the school within five days of the child’s return. 

A Dallas ISD spokesperson said the district and city are not at that point yet.

Frank and Romano both believe another reason cases are so high is fewer vaccinations than years past.

“Some vaccine hesitancy because of COVID vaccines spilled over into the flu vaccine which logically doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Frank said.

“Even if your kid if having mild cough/cold symptoms, they can absolutely still get their flu vaccine,” Romano said. “It will keep you out of the hospital and if you are an at-risk individual, you absolutely need to get it.”

Frank said to call your pediatrician for treatment questions and while it’s easy to be alarmed by a child with fever, ER trips should be reserved for persistent or severe symptoms like trouble breathing.

“Fever is in some ways beneficial,” Frank said. “It’s the body trying to fight whatever infection is there and to not let the actual temperature scare them.”

She’s optimistic we’re nearing the peak. With hospitals and doctor’s offices near capacity, any more increases could be overwhelming.

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