Central Florida doctors concerned over growing number of children hospitalized with COVID-19

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — One week before school starts in Orange County, more than 30 children in the area are hospitalized and many more are very sick with COVID-19.

“Compared to the last prior two or three months, we’re seeing a tremendous increase in the number of kids coming in for medical care,” said Dr. Federico Laham, the medical director for pediatric infectious diseases at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

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Overall in Orange County, 37 kids ages zero to 4 years old are positive for COVID-19; 113 kids ages 5 to 14 are infected; and 193 have the virus in the 15 to 24 age group.

Of those, Orlando Health has five kids admitted to the hospital, including one in the ICU. Nemours has eight children hospitalized with the virus with one in the ICU, and AdventHealth has 20 kids hospitalized.

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“That appears to be higher than where we have been in weeks past,” said Dr. Vincent Hsu, with AdventHealth.

Laham, with Arnold Palmer Hospital, said the numbers are even higher at their free-standing ERs.

“What is more alarming is the trend that we’re noticing. Over the last two weeks, things appear to have really escalated,” Laham said.

READ: Florida facing 60% rise in COVID-19 cases driven by unvaccinated patients

He said younger children aren’t spared from the virus either. Several doctors Channel 9 spoke with said the delta variant is proving to be much more aggressive with younger kids than what we’ve seen in the past.

“The highest number of cases comes from children under the age of 6,” Laham said. “So it’s really younger kids who come to the hospital and are diagnosed with COVID.”

Dr. Michael Keating, the chief medical officer at AdventHealth for Children, said many children who are hospitalized with the virus do not have preexisting conditions. He said children with preexisting conditions are more at risk, but there are plenty of otherwise healthy children now in the hospital with the virus.

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Keating said it’s vital for every parent to get their child vaccinated when they are age-eligible, and he said the rest should be wearing masks at school.

“I would tell you based on my experience in my office dealing with the kids, kids have adapted to masks very, very easily.,” Keating said. “So for me, if it was my child, in the morning you brush your teeth, you comb your hair, and you put on your mask.”

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.