TAMPA, Fla. — “They are exposed to the virus everywhere because now it is everywhere,” said Dr. Claudia Espinosa, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of South Florida.
The continued rapid rise of the COVID-19 delta variant in Florida is causing pediatricians to be on high alert for children, especially since many still aren’t eligible for a vaccine.
“In the past two weeks, there has been an increase in cases, especially in the ages of 12 and younger,” said Espinosa.
“That group of children are really concerning. They are vulnerable right? They have not met this virus before because we kept them cocooned last year and now there are no more restrictions,” she added.
Based on the latest data, in the most recently reported seven-day window, Florida has had at least 247 confirmed COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations, which is about 35 per day. The state now leads the nation in confirmed pediatric hospitalizations per capita.
“The most scary to me are the ones that are coming after one month or two months with the multi-system inflammatory syndrome. They come with neurological compromises, G.I. compromises—and Myocarditis is almost universal in all of those children. They are scary to treat,” said Espinosa.
While there are still many children who get COVID-19 with only mild symptoms, doctors say it’s hard to determine at this point if the delta variant will have more severe side effects since it’s spreading so quickly and there’s limited data.
“Even if the kids by any chance got the virus the first time like last year let’s say and they did really well, we cannot expect that to happen this year because we really don’t know what’s going to happen with this virus,” said Espinosa.
As kids get ready to head back to school, health experts predict the numbers won’t get any better.
“What I have seen is they still get sick. In four to eight weeks, we are going to still see children who have multi-system inflammatory syndrome because we have seen it all through the months even when the cases were low, we still see them. And so, I don’t expect that's going to be better now that they’re going to school,” said Espinosa.
They’re urging Tampa Bay area families to encourage children to wear masks.