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A dozen pediatric patients are currently hospitalized in Austin area with COVID-19

Health authorities said four are in ICUs and three are on ventilators.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Austin is seeing yet another surge in COVID-19, this time with a troubling increase in hospital admissions, Austin medical director Dr. Desmar Walkes appeared on ABC News Live Prime Tuesday to discuss local data.

At last count, Dr. Walkes said there were 12 pediatric patients in the hospital in the Austin area, with four currently in ICUs and three on ventilators.

"That's a big concern for us," she said. "...The children that are in ICU are the children that tend to be those with underlying conditions. The children that are presented to hospital are largely unvaccinated."

This also comes as Austin ISD announced Monday that it would be requiring face masks for all on-campus students, staff and visitors when school starts later this month, despite an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbot preventing schools from enforcing face mask mandates.

ABC News' Linsey Davis asked Dr. Walkes how difficult her job becomes when political leaders block safety efforts, such as mask mandates in schools.

"It means that we have to do a really good job educating the public about stopping the spread with mask-wearing and really make a considerate effort to communicate effectively to the public and overcome the misinformation that's out there," said Dr. Walkes.

Amid the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, Dr. Walkes said morale among public health leaders has become "frustrating" as so many people have decided to remain unvaccinated.

"We are continuing our efforts to get vaccine out into our community and, interestingly enough, the numbers for those who are coming in for first doses has increased as they see that we are struggling right now with our ICU capacity," said Dr. Walkes. "So that's a good thing."


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