A jump in child COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York is being seen as a warning to get more children vaccinated in California and elsewhere as the Omicron variant continues to surge.
The Omicron wave hit New York before California, where cases have been spiking in the last week. California officials said they are monitoring the rise in child hospitalizations.
“Unfortunately NY is seeing an increase in pediatric hospitalizations (primarily amongst the unvaccinated), and they have similar [5 – to 11-year-old] vaccination rates,” California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan wrote on Twitter. “Please give your children the gift of vaccine protection as soon as possible as our case [numbers] are increasing rapidly.”
The increase is concentrated in New York City and the surrounding metro area. Officials described pediatric admissions quadrupling in New York City in recent weeks.
Half of the children being admitted to hospitals are younger than 5 and ineligible for vaccination. Three-quarters of those ages 12 to 17 who were admitted into hospitals for COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated, and 100% of those ages 5 to 11 who were admitted into hospitals were not fully vaccinated.
The warning about pediatric hospital admissions comes as California’s public health director and health officer, Dr. Tomás Aragón, warned that state modelers are predicting hospital surges for California.
“Why? Omicron is so contagious that it finds unvaccinated/non-immune people who are most vulnerable for hospitalizations and deaths,” Aragón wrote.
Aragón urged people to get vaccinated and boosted; test before risky events, as well as three to five days after them; and consider not attending or postponing high-risk indoor gatherings. Aragón also suggested improving ventilation and air filtration, and improving the fit and quality of masks.
Health experts have increasingly urged people to upgrade their masks from cloth masks alone. A more protective mask-wearing setup involves a cloth mask over a surgical mask, which improves the fit; an even more improved set-up involves wearing those that are higher-grade, like a KF94, KN95 or N95 mask.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, recently urged people to not go to the kinds of indoor parties attended by dozens of people whose vaccination status you don’t know. Fauci said it’s safer for people to gather in smaller-sized gatherings with family and friends in homes where everyone is known to be vaccinated and boosted, and even safer if people get rapid tests just before the event.
Fauci on Sunday told ABC that recent data from Britain shows that, in its Omicron wave, a lower percentage of newly infected people are needing hospitalization stays.
“Interestingly, the duration of hospital stay was lower, the need for oxygen was lower,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.” Still, because Omicron is causing such a high volume of new infections, the variant could find many, many more people who haven’t been immunized, and could still result in hospitals that are overrun.
Unvaccinated people “are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and infecting them the way Omicron is,” Fauci said in the televised interview. Omicron “might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States.”
While unvaccinated people are at highest risk of contracting the virus and suffering severe illness, the Omicron variant’s mutations enable it to increase the risk of breakthrough infections among those who are vaccinated. Still, vaccinated people, especially those who are boosted, are expected to be generally protected from severe illness and death, unless they have a weakened immune system.
New coronavirus cases dramatically increased through Christmas in Los Angeles County. On Tuesday, 3,052 new cases were reported; on Wednesday, 6,509; Thursday, 8,633; Friday, 9,988; Saturday, 11,930; and Sunday, 8,891. Officials warned coronavirus case counts over the weekend are actually an undercount due to delays in reports over the holiday.
At its peak during last winter’s surge, L.A. County was averaging about 16,000 new coronavirus cases a day. Officials have warned that L.A. County could be on track to see daily case numbers that could break that record, with as many as 20,000 new cases a day.
The percentage of coronavirus tests in L.A. County coming back positive has risen dramatically. For the seven-day period that ended Sunday, 10.8% of coronavirus tests had positive test results. By comparison, for the seven-day period that ended on Dec. 20, 3.4% of tests came back with positive results.
Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased significantly since Dec. 1, from 569 to 904 on Christmas, an increase of 59%. But the latest number is far less than it was a year ago, when vaccinations had just been introduced and were in sharply limited supply; in L.A. County on Dec….