The Potluck

Worrying trend: More kids hospitalized with COVID

By: - August 13, 2021 4:36 pm

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm briefed reporters on the state’s preparedness for the spread of the novel coronavirus. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Hospitalizations of children are on the rise amid the state’s fourth wave of the pandemic — 83 kids and teens under 19 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past two months, 25 of them in the past two weeks, Minnesota health officials announced Friday.

The current surge of infections driven by the Delta variant is hitting kids harder than earlier spikes, in part because children under 12 aren’t eligible for vaccines yet, said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm during a COVID-19 update. It’s an especially worrying trend with the start of the school year right around the corner.

Nationwide, the hospitalization rate for children and teens with COVID-19 hit an all-time high this week, although the rate still remains far below that of older age groups. On Aug. 11, there were 3.6 hospitalizations of people under 17 for every 1 million Americans — about 263 children per day. 

The Delta variant is more contagious than previous strains, although there’s not enough evidence yet to suggest it causes more serious disease in children, experts say.

Also on Friday, the state shared some brighter news about youth and COVID-19: The number of first doses given to 12-17-year-olds more than doubled during the first week in August compared to the week before. More than 200,000 teens have at least one dose.

The federal government has said the vaccine could be approved for children under 12 this fall or winter.

Hospitalizations for all age groups are on the rise as well. Nearly 400 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Thursday, 110 of them in intensive care units. That’s almost double the number of hospitalizations at the end of July.

Minnesota reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day Friday. In mid-June, the state was reporting fewer than 100 cases daily.

Malcolm said it’s concerning how quickly transmission in Minnesota has increased, based on data provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Seven of Minnesota’s 88 counties are in the “moderate” transmission category, according to the CDC, and the remainder fall into the “substantial” or “high” transmission categories. At the end of July, just 14 counties qualified as having “substantial” or “high” spread.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.