‘More disease, more hospitalizations’: Local doctors brace for surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Local health leaders and doctors are warning of an upcoming surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases as that is the trend on the east coast, midwest, and other parts of the country.

Dr. Andy Pavia with Primary Children’s Hospital said Utah tends to follow the trends that happen in those geographic areas.

“We are bracing ourselves,” said Dr. Pavia. “This is because in the cities that are a week or two ahead of us on the east coast and the central Midwest pediatric hospitalizations are hitting all-time highs for COVID.”

Hospitalizations due to COVID in school-aged children are not rising in Utah but Dr. Pavia said the new variant is causing more disease.

“Omicron seems to be playing out a little bit differently in children,” said Dr. Pavia. “They seem to be more likely to get infected. Younger kids seem to be more likely to get in enough trouble to be hospitalized for oxygen.”

As of Monday, the FDA has approved a COVID-19 booster shot for kids 12 to 15-years-old as long as enough time has passed since their last dose.

They must wait at least five months to get the booster.

Original vaccinations opened for the younger teens, those 12 to 15, back in May.

That means those first in line in the spring, thousands of them, are set to get the booster.

“They know that a lot of people that have gotten very sick with COVID and it is something people are scared of and here is their superpower to help protect them,” said Dr. Pavia.

Dr. Pavia says Utah fares better than the national average in getting five to eleven-year-oldsvaccinated,12 to 17 year-olds are on par with the average, however, the general population is lagging behind.

Dr. Liz Close is the executive director of the Utah Nurses Association.

She said as hospitalizations rise more nurses are quitting because of the immense workload.

“I have never heard nurses in my 46 years speak of feeling broken,” said Dr. Close. “There are many that are feeling broken that there is nothing they can do to change this and it really is up to the public to take a hold of this and say we have an opportunity to prevent this level of disaster that is going on.”

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