FORT WORTH, Texas — Cook Children's Medical Center has reached a new record for COVID-19 patients, with 69 children hospitalized as of Wednesday, a number that has more than doubled in two weeks.
The Fort Worth hospital has seen a dramatic increase in pediatric patients and positive COVID-19 cases to start 2022.
Last week there were 51 COVID-19 patients at Cook Children's. Two weeks ago, on Dec. 29, the hospital reported 29 COVID-19 patients.
"This is a significant increase," Cheryl Peterson, Cook Children's chief nursing officer, said in a news conference Wednesday. "It certainly gave all of us pause this morning."
Peterson said the hospital saw 440 children at its emergency room in Fort Worth on Tuesday and 1,027 children at their clinics across Tarrant County.
Of the hospital's 7,600 employees, 165 of them, who officials say are unvaccinated, are out with COVID-19. The hospital has a vaccine mandate, but employees were able to apply for an exemption.
The increase in hospitalizations at Cook Children's is in line with the sharp uptick in positive cases the hospital is seeing.
Cook Children's 7-day average case rate has exceeded 700 this month. In the previous two major COVID-19 waves -- in winter of 2020-2021 and in the fall of 2021 -- the hospital's 7-day average case rate did not exceed 300.
Peterson said the hospital is approaching "a crisis point" with the rise of COVID-19 cases among children.
Peterson said most of the patients are not in intensive care, though the surge in COVID-19, along with other seasonal illnesses, such as the flu, has Cook Children's officials concerned.
In addition to the hospitalizations, the number of children being treated in the emergency room and at Cook Children's clinics is "extremely high," Peterson said.
Cook Children's has been operating at capacity for weeks, officials said. The hospital had converted a single floor of the hospital for COVID-19 patients. Before Christmas, the hospital expanded COVID-19 patients to a second unit and has since expanded beyond that, Peterson said.
What COVID-19 symptoms do children have?
Dr. Bianka Soria-Olmos, a Cook Children's pediatrician, said many children are showing symptoms of "upper airway inflammation," causing a distinct cough.
"It's a very tight cough," Soria-Olmos said. "It almost sounds like a seal, or a 'barky' cough, is a typical description in the world of pediatrics."
Soria-Olmos said that specific cough symptom wasn't common with other variants of COVID-19.
Peterson said patients have typically shown less severe symptoms with the Omicron variant, compared to previous strains, despite the rise in hospitalizations. While some children have had to be placed on a ventilator, their time on a ventilator has typically been less than in previous waves of the virus, Peterson said.
"We're pleased that it's a lesser length of stay," Peterson said. "But if you come to the hospital, and you're admitted, it's because there is some necessity for supporting ventilatory or respiratory or antibiotic or fluid administration. It's not to be taken lightly."
Watch Cook Children's full update here:
Tarrant County on Wednesday reported 9,001 new COVID-19 cases and an additional 172 people hospitalized. Statewide, Texas set a record for most new cases in a single day, reporting 75,817.