TEXAS, USA — As the omicron variant spreads, it is infecting people old and young in Central Texas.
“We've also seen kids with COVID that are being hospitalized, certainly in our hospital,” said Dominic Lucia, pediatric emergency physician and chief medical officer of McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple. “That percentage has crept up rapidly in the last 10 days to two weeks.”
Lucia said just two weeks ago they only had about 1 to 2% of their hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Now he says the number is nearing 12% and that it’s a variety of kids being hospitalized.
“It can be kids that don't have a lot else [underlying symptoms]. We've seen some younger kids that have those significant viral symptoms that actually need some help, as far as breathing. And we see it also with kids with complex medical histories where it causes more problems,” said Lucia.
He said the kids who are not ending up hospitalized or are having shorter stays in the hospital are the ones who have been vaccinated. Although he believes omicron is a less severe variant, he said it is risky to assume your child will be OK if they get infected.
“Our pediatric infectious disease experts are seeing kids that have long-haul COVID symptoms and can have other issues secondary to COVID even weeks later,” Lucia explained.
As kids head back to school, Lucia has a few tips.
“First and foremost, if you're five and up and are eligible for the COVID vaccination, get it. If you're eligible for flu vaccination, which essentially is all ages, get it. And then the secondary measures, which are important right now, would be the masking, the hand-washing and the social distancing,” said Lucia.
In an email to parents, Austin ISD recommended double masking, if kids don’t have an N95 mask. Lucia said there is no harm in double masking, but finding a good mask is most important.
“I think if we can just start with a good quality, you know, a medical mask with the elastic, that's a really good start,” he said.
Lucia believes that socially it is best for kids to be in the classroom, but says January is going to be a challenging month, as he expects more kids to be hospitalized with the virus.
“Where we're at right now during the break and then we're going to go back to school, it's probably going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
You can watch his full interview here:
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