NORFOLK, Va. - Currently, 2,100 children are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States. The spike tracks in line with older adults as COVID-19 runs rampant after the holidays.
So far, 16 children in Virginia have died from the virus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and positive cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. This holds true for the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Hampton Roads, where the hospital is maxed out and breaking records for positive cases.
The doors of CHKD are working overtime this week as a steady stream of young patients heads into the already-bustling hospital.
"Overnight we had 310 new positive patients. The day before that, 200; the day before that, 100. Really since Christmas, there has been an explosion in the number of new patients positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Laura Sass, an infectious disease specialist with CHKD.
The numbers are shattering records, Sass says — the highest since the start of the pandemic.
"Last time we had a larger surge is when delta came out — that was in the fall. The highest then was 50 to 70 per day," Sass said.
Out of the record-breaking numbers this week, only 12 patients are hospitalized, all of whom are unvaccinated.
"The age range is birth to 21. We are seeing infants as young as one to two weeks old, and returning college students coming back as well," Sass said.
Sass says she believes this is the omicron variant at work.
"At this point in time, given community spread, if you have cold and respiratory symptoms you should assume you have COVID-19 and isolate," Sass explained.
CHKD is testing hundreds of children per day, with 11,000 receiving tests last month alone, but Sass says you shouldn't come to the emergency room for a test.
"We are running at capacity, getting tests done as fast as we can, but don’t need you in the ER if you don’t need emergency services," she said.
Her best advice is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are widely available for kids 5 and up, and boosters are available for those 16 and up.
"Please, please, please get vaccinated," she said. "It helps us decrease the number of people that are ill and seeking emergency and inpatient care."
According to Sass, 432 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at CHKD since the start of the pandemic. Only one was vaccinated, Sass said.
A record number of positive cases sweeping the hospital prompted a new policy, which will go into effect Thursday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hospitalized patients may have two designated visitors for the duration of their stay. They must be parents or caregivers. No siblings or others are allowed.
In addition, face masks are required. Your mask must cover your mouth and nose at all times. Children under age 2, and those who are not developmentally able to wear a mask safely, are exempt. Masks with valves are not allowed.