SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Throughout most of 2020, COVID-19 impacted the elderly population the most. This year, doctors say they’ve seen a significant shift in demographics, specifically with the delta variant.
“What we are seeing, really, is that it is the unvaccinated population that is being affected and age is not a discrimination at this point,” said Dr. Todd Haner, the chief nursing officer at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.
Pediatric cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across the Tampa Bay area.
In June at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, 12 children tested positive. In July, that case count increased to 181. Last week alone, hospital officials say 74 children tested positive.
“Now, that doesn’t mean all the children needed to be hospitalized,” clarified Dr. Jessie Hoang. “In fact, many children can be safely taken care of at home with COVID-19, but it just does go to show the stark increase in the number of positive cases and we do attribute that to the delta variant.”
Sarasota Memorial Hospital saw 22 pediatric COVID cases in July. Of those, two were hospitalized and both were under the age of 12, according to hospital data.
Dr. Hoang says with the recent rise in cases, there are some children suffering from serious cases of the disease. She says it is kids 11 and younger who are at the greatest risk of infection heading back to school.
“We are seeing children as young as a newborn being hospitalized with COVID-19. So If a child is old enough to be eligible for the vaccination, I highly recommend they get it to help mitigate the severity of disease,” said Dr. Hoang.
Parents across Tampa Bay have expressed concerns surrounding their children heading back to school. Dr. Hoang says it’s going to be up to parents to help keep their kids safe since masks cannot be mandated in public schools at this time.
“The best thing families can do to alleviate those concerns is one, keep their child home if they are sick and then two, have them go to school in a mask,” said the pediatrician.
She says it will help slow the spread on campus.
“If a child goes to school wearing a mask and they have the delta variant but are in those first few days where they are asymptomatic, they are a lot less likely to spread the disease to other children. If their friends are in masks, they are a lot less likely to catch it,” Dr. Hoang explained. “So just the simple act of wearing a mask to school can help prevent shut downs and two-week quarantines and let our children enjoy the benefits of in-person schooling and being with their teachers and their peers in class.”