TAMPA, Fla. — “I wish everybody can hear this message. It is that the pandemic is not over yet,” said Dr. Claudia Espinosa, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of South Florida.
For the majority of the pandemic, doctors say they’ve mostly seen adults and older patients hospitalized for COVID-19, but that’s now starting to change.
“So the patients who we are seeing are those young adults and young actually teenagers and children... who did not get initially vaccinated or those who are not able to get vaccinated,” said Espinosa.
A recent CDC study tracked hospitalizations in kids ages 12-17 from January until April.
The study shows there were 204 hospitalizations. They peaked in January, went down in March, but then doubled in April.
Nearly one-third of kids hospitalized required ICU admission. There were no deaths.
“It’s concerning any kids gets sick and obviously if your kid ends up in the ICU, you don’t really care about the numbers. 5% of those were ending up on a ventilator so obviously, that’s still serious stuff,” said Dr. David Berger, Board Certified Pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care.
Doctors say this spike in adolescent hospitalizations is not surprising, since so many people aren’t wearing masks anymore.
“The pandemic is still ongoing and we have new strains,” said Espinosa.
“Especially now that we know that this Delta variant, which is going around, which is more contagious… A lot of people are kind of looking at masks as a really optional thing at this point. And you know during past times when there’s been other spikes, there was much more masks being used,” said Berger.
Espinosa says there are many people in the medical community who are concerned about restrictions being lifted with so many people, including kids, who are still unvaccinated.
Some experts worry the trend of more children being hospitalized will continue, reinforcing the need for continued prevention measures.
“Everybody is so eager to get outside and do stuff that we couldn’t do last year but the pandemic is not over,” said Espinosa
She says the best way you can protect your child if they’re unvaccinated is by avoiding crowded indoor spaces, other unvaccinated people, and make sure they’re wearing a mask.
“Now we are going outside and there are no mask requirements and I really wish that the parents that have children who are not vaccinated can still wear their masks and just do it in solidarity with them because they are going to do as the parents do,” said Espinosa.
"You are not immune until you are immune. How are you immune? You’re immune because you caught COVID and you have protection now or because you’ve been vaccinated and you have protection now,” said Berger.