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Ohio children's hospitals, Hamilton County Coroner sound alarm over kids getting COVID-19

Ohio children's hospitals, Hamilton County Coroner sound alarm over kids getting COVID-19{ } (WKRC file)
Ohio children's hospitals, Hamilton County Coroner sound alarm over kids getting COVID-19 (WKRC file)
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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Doctors report the coronavirus is hitting children at an alarming rate.

Children's hospitals in Ohio report their beds are filling up for critically ill children and they are running low on staff to take care of them. The dire warning came Tuesday during a news conference -- an unprecedented plea to the public.

It came from all of the major children's hospitals in the state. The Ohio Children's Hospital Association says, in June, the state basically had no children hospitalized with COVID-19. Two weeks ago, the number was in the single digits. Tuesday, there were 70. Cincinnati Children's alone tested 8,000 children last week. Eight hundred came up positive, and several of them are now hospitalized.

"Twelve to 15 kids hospitalized per day in the ICU and on ECMO,” said Grace Wakulchik, president and CEO of Akron Children's Hospital, during the press conference.

"We currently have 26 children in the hospital, nine of which are in the ICU and five on ventilators,” said Tim Robinson, CEO at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"We have been very full, and we anticipate being very full again this week," said Patty Manning-Courtney, MD, chief of staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

These doctors are sending up flares, saying that Ohio is reaching a critical point. Local 12 asked about those who simply don't believe them: "There are still thousands of people out there who are saying, 'Yeah, yeah, kids get COVID, but as a percentage, they're really not getting that sick.’ What do you have to say to those people?"

"In 2020, I said that,” admitted Nick Lashutka, president of the Ohio Children's Hospital Association. "In 2021, it's absolutely not the case. The delta variant is not only more contagious, it's impacting kids at a fundamentally higher level than we've seen to date."

And Manning-Courtney says patients at her hospital are not just showing mild symptoms.

"The kids that are hospitalized now with COVID -- it's not that they're just incidentally positive; they are sick with COVID. They have COVID pneumonia; they have high respiratory needs; they are on high flow nasal cannula or on ventilators. They are very sick."

We asked Lashutka, "What if we stay on this current trajectory and how long do we have before what?"

"We're mildly terrified,” he answered. “Because we don't know what flu season is going to be like. We don't know where the plateau is and we're still on the rise. So, this has our attention; it really has our attention."

The doctors Tuesday were speaking directly to parents to convince them to get their eligible children vaccinated and get vaccinated themselves. They were also speaking to school administrators to convince them to mandate masks in schools. They say these are the tools we have right now to head off this trajectory.

The chief of staff at Cincinnati Children's says she believes the FDA, within the next few months, will approve emergency use authorization of a COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 years old, and she says she hopes parents will take advantage of it.

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco also released a letter to school boards across Southwest Ohio.

The 17-page document is signed by dozens of local doctors and calls on board members to mandate masks in schools.

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