COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two pediatricians have two similar stories: They're concerned about rising COVID-19 cases among young people, and hoping adults can help turn the tide.
"We are in a bad situation," Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Chief of Pediatric Critical Care with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), said. "Our COVID hospitalizations among children are up. The numbers of children requiring ICU are up. The number of children in the ICU with COVID that are requiring ventilators, all of those numbers are up. So, this is obviously of great concern to us.”
On September 1, two Aiken County students died from COVID-19 complications.
According to Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables, 9-year-old Ethan Blue and 15-year-old Emily Brosnahan succumbed to the illness.
"Children are sicker right now with COVID. This is a different beast. What we are seeing ... this surge is very different than what we saw in the prior surges," Dr. Mack said. "So, people need to be doing all that they can to protect themselves and each other, and specifically our children, and remembering that children who are less than 12 years of age can't even be vaccinated."
On Tuesday, 33 South Carolina kids were hospitalized. 17 were in intensive care, and 9 were on a ventilator, according to Mack. None were vaccinated.
While hospitalizations among children are less common than adults, Dr. Deborah Greenhouse with Prisma Health said they are increasing with more elderly people vaccinated and the more easily spread Delta variant circulating.
"I don’t know that we can say for sure yet whether the Delta variant specifically causes more severe disease or if it’s simply that because we now have so many more kids getting sick with it that some of those kids are going to get severe disease," Dr. Greenhouse said. "But, the bottom line is, right now, we have far too many kids catching the disease. Especially, now that our schools have opened and we're not taking the steps that we need to be taking to mitigate this. And because we have so many kids getting sick with it, some of those kids are ending up in the hospital, some of those kids are ending up in our intensive care units and some of those kids unfortunately, will pass away.”
Both doctors say the best strategies to keep kids safe are the ones health officials have been repeating since the early days of the pandemic.
"We can turn this thing around," Dr. Mack said. "Masking when we are indoors, particularly for children above two years of age in the K-12 setting should be masked. Vaccinating everybody who's 12 and up....”
“…staying home if you’re sick and getting tested if you’re sick," Dr. Greenhouse added. "We know what works here.”