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Checking in with pediatricians, nurses as child COVID hospitalizations soar

child covid cases
Posted at 8:26 AM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 11:40:59-05

The number of children testing positive for COVID-19 is soaring.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports 11% of all child COVID cases since the start of the pandemic have come in the last two weeks.

Doctors do not believe the rise in hospitalizations is due to the increased severity of the omicron variant, rather the increased transmissibility that has led to more COVID-19 infections overall.

The increased volume has put a strain on doctors and nurses working in pediatric divisions of hospitals nationwide.

“I think this time last year we were all really hopeful we wouldn’t still be here,” said Dr. Tracy Butler, pediatric ICU director at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. “It’s sad that we are currently in this peak situation.”

“Some days are better than others,” added pediatric nurse Steph Miller.

According to the CDC, COVID hospitalizations for children under 5 have risen 48% in the US since the beginning of December, the largest jump for the age group since the beginning of the pandemic. And new hospitalizations for kids under 18 are at a record level as well: 797 each day.

“Responding to crisis is normal, but you usually have a lot of adrenaline when responding to crisis. And so, responding to a crisis, where it’s a long-term crisis, I think that’s the element that has made this the most challenging,” said Laura Anne Cleveland, an associate chief nursing officer at RMHC.

Cleveland says to keep morale in her unit up, she gives hand-written letters of appreciation and support to her nurses. She says they are most helpful when her unit experiences a bad outcome with a patient.

“We just continue to work hard and be there for each other because if we’re not here, no one else is, so we are going to be for our kids and our community,” said Miller.

Dr. Reginald Washington is the chief medical officer at RMHC and has worked to offset the increasing number of doctors and nurses calling out due to COVID-19 infection. He says it has strained an already-fragile system.

“Some days are tougher than others, but we put on our big boy pants and get back on the saddle and come back to work,” said Dr. Washington. “Patients rely on us. People would ring bells and shout at 8 p.m. but the stress on the medical profession has not gone away. I think people are, to some extent, taking COVID for granted, where, in the healthcare profession, you can’t do that because we live it every day.”

This is part of a series of stories examining the question, "How are you doing?" where we check in with people from different walks of life to see how they’re handling the pandemic.”