COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced there were 54 children in the hospital due to COVID-19. Officials said this is a new record for the state.
The previous record for South Carolina was 38 children in the hospital.
"We must stop the spread among our students and in our communities," said Dr. Brannon Traxlor, Public Health Director, DHEC.
In a news conference, Dr. Traxlor said all of the children are unvaccinated, and half of them can't receive the shot because they are younger than five-years-old.
Traxler said the best way to protect children is to make sure everyone in their household is taking all the COVID-19 precautions, including being fully vaccinated and boosted.
"If they are two or older, encourage them to wear a mask," Dr. Traxlor said. "Recognizing, especially the youngest ones might not right away, be able to correctly and consistently wear it but starting to teach them and to the extent possible, but the main thing is getting everyone else in the household fully vaccinated and boosting."
The health agency also reported 11 children are in critical care, and two are on ventilators.
"The return to school for school-aged children is likely adding to the increased numbers of children diagnosed with COVID," said Maggie Cash, Executive Director of SC Children's Hospital Collaboration. "It is also possible that the high numbers are largely a reflection of the widespread transmission of COVID at this time."
Cash said young children depend on other people to protect them.
"The children's hospitals urge all families to vaccinate eligible children and follow SC DHEC's public health guidelines regarding COVID," Cash said. "This includes masking, keeping sick children at home, physical distancing, and good hand hygiene."