Alabama sees ‘significant increase’ in pediatric COVID cases

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 12:03 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Public Health is urging parents not to discount the effects COVID-19 can have on children, noting that it’s seeing a “significant increase in pediatric cases” now compared to the same time in 2020.

Between Aug. 1-12 of 2020, Alabama had 1,356 reports of COVID-19 in those ages 5-17. During that same period in 2021, however, reports among the same age range were 350% higher at 6,181 cases.

The state is now treating at least 50 hospitalized children for coronavirus, and ADPH said recently at least nine were on ventilators in a single day.

Data indicates Alabama now leads the nation in pediatric COVID hospitalization cases.

“I am very concerned that the children of Alabama are experiencing more illness and hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19,” said ADPH pediatrician, Dr. Karen Landers. “Children can and do contract and spread COVID-19 disease.”

In the last month, Alabama has seen about 6% of COVID cases come from children ages 0-4 years and 8% in those 5-17, meaning minors account for about 14% of the state’s total COVID cases.

Landers said at least 6% of children with COVID-19 have experienced long-term consequences, and at least 113 Alabama children have suffered from a severe illness called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Childhood, or MIS-C. The illness occurs after the COVID disease and affects organs including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, “among other body systems,” Landers said.

Of great concern to health providers is the percent of positive tests among children 5-17. About 27% of children tested for COVID have it. That’s higher than the state percent positivity of 24%, which is among the worst in the nation.

So what’s causing the surge in pediatric cases, especially since the pandemic did not initially appear to affect many children? The Delta variant.

”Delta can replicate more quickly and infect earlier than previous SARS-CoV-2 variants,” explained Dr. Benjamin Estrada, who focuses on pediatric infectious diseases at the University of South Alabama. “These factors are fueling the surge of COVID-19 among Alabama’s children.”

ADPH continues efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus. In addition to adults, health officials are recommending children ages 12 and up be vaccinated.

Also, ADPH recently issued school guidance that states any child who has COVID-19 should stay in home isolation for 10 days so as not to spread the virus to other students and teachers. The health department also recommends close contacts also quarantine unless they meet the following exceptions:

  • Have had COVID-19 within 90 days of exposure
  • Fully vaccinated
  • In the K-12 classroom, correct and appropriate mask use with 3 or more feet of distancing

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