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'We should expect more kids to get infected' | Local pediatrician says COVID surge hasn't peaked

On Monday, the number of patients with COVID-19 rose to 13,614, more than 3,000 more patients than when the streak of record patients hospitalized began on Aug. 1.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the ninth consecutive day Monday, Florida hospitals set a record for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, according to the Florida Hospitals Association.

Over the weekend, hospitals across the state reported more than 13,000 patients per day with COVID-19 for the first time. 

Monday, the number of patients with COVID-19 rose to 13,614, more than 3,000 more patients than when the streak of record patients hospitalized began on Aug. 1.

The Florida Hospital Association reported nearly 30 percent of inpatients have COVID-19, and 44.8 percent of ICU patients have COVID-19. The numbers reported by the Florida Hospital Association ranks Florida as having the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the country.

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Across the country, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 4.2 million children have had COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

Florida leads the nation with the highest number of pediatric patients currently hospitalized with COVID. As of Monday, 179 children were hospitalized across the state with COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Texas was second with 161 pediatric patients. 

Florida admitted the most pediatric patients out of the entire country with COVID Sunday, 49 children, according to the HHS. Texas was second with 35 pediatric patients. 

Locally, hospitals are also reporting rises in COVID-19 patients, including among children.

At UF Health Jacksonville Monday, 259 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 58 in the ICU. There were two children hospitalized in the system.

At Baptist Health Jacksonville, as of Monday, there were 584 patients with COVID-19, including 119 patients in the ICU, across all campuses. The hospital also reported that 78 patients were admitted with COVID-19 Sunday.

Monday, there were 21 children with COVID-19 at Wolfson Children's Hospital, including six children in the ICU. A week ago, the number of children with COVID-19 at Wolfson Children's Hospital was 10. Sunday, 10 children were admitted to Wolfson.

"Of course with children, it is very striking and very concerning," Dr. Mobeen Rathore, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology and UF Health Jacksonville, said. “If we can't even protect our most precious resource our future ... I don't understand why we are not being very aggressive in protecting these kids, having masks, having vaccines, doing all those things."

According to a spokesperson for Wolfson Children's Hospital, in June, the hospital admitted 22 pediatric patients. In July, it admitted 96 pediatric patients. It has admitted 19 pediatric patients so far in August. 

“We have this idea that, 'Oh, it's okay for kids to get [the] infection because they're not going to be seriously ill.' Well, they are not only going to get seriously ill, they can get into the hospital, get admitted to the hospital, get into the ICU, get intubated, be on a ventilator, and sometimes, unfortunately, even die,” Rathore said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 4.2 million children have had COVID since the pandemic started. According to the CDC, 542 children 17-years-old and younger have died from the virus, including a 16-year-old last week at Wolfson

A spokesperson for Wolfson said four children have died from COVID since March of 2020.

Rathore said even if a child isn't hospitalized with COVID, they can have short and long-term complications like brain fog and exhaustion. 

"It's also the parents whose kids are having these long-term complications of COVID, the COVID long. That's also quite devastating," Rathore explained. "You know, they see this young child who was happy, playful, active, and now cannot hardly do anything."

Rathore said as school starts, everyone needs to do everything in their power to protect students, teachers and staff in schools, especially to protect those who are too young to get vaccinated.

“I think it's extremely important that we make sure that kids wear masks in school. I think it's also important that everybody who is eligible for Coronavirus vaccine, not just kids, but staff and faculty, are all immunized," Rathore said. "And everybody, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, should wear a mask because, you know, children less than 12 years of age still cannot get the vaccine."

Rathore said he doesn't think we've reached the peak of this surge yet, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

“We should expect to see more kids getting infected, more kids getting sick, more kids getting hospitalized, more kids being in the ICU, and unfortunately, some of them may also die," Rathore said.

The Centers for Disease Control reported more than 28,000 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida for Aug. 8 with 28,317 cases. However, the Florida Department of Health later said that was inaccurate, as the figure was a combination of multiple days. 

The continued rise in serious cases of COVID-19 comes as many children in Florida get set to return to school. 

Many districts and individual schools are strongly encouraging students to wear masks until further notice. However, an executive order signed by Gov. DeSantis barred school districts from enforcing mask mandates.

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