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SC children’s hospitals seeing ICUs fill with COVID patients

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 7:53 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:13 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A group representing children’s hospitals in South Carolina says the rate of children requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 in SC is “rising at an alarming rate,” according to the SC Children’s Hospital Collaborative.

Since the beginning of September, 15% of new COVID-19 cases were among kids ages 10 or younger.

According to DHEC data from September 6, of the nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases reported, 362 were that age.

‘This is now our most vulnerable population,” said Prisma Health Midlands Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Rick Scott. “Kids under 12 don’t have access to vaccination. And sadly, in the 12 to 18 age many haven’t availed themselves to it for multiple reasons.”

There are nine kids on ventilators with COVID-19 in South Carolina, a record high, according to a news release from the SC Children’s Hospital Collaborative.

The group says there are more children on ventilators across the state on Wednesday than in all of 2020 combined. ”That nine children, who at no fault received this virus, is nine too many,” said SCHA Chief Operating Officer Melanie Matney.

The collaborative says while pediatric ICUs are filling up it’s not like what was happening earlier this year.

The group says of the state’s four children’s hospitals, coronavirus cases are more common in SC ICUs compared to the respiratory viruses that were surging in May and June.

“In fact, some of our ICUs have zero children with RSV,” the news release explained. “We have seen perfectly healthy children as well as children with risk factors for severe illness with COVID-19.”

The hospitalization rate for adults is also worrying health officials.

More than 85% of the staffed ICU beds in South Carolina are full, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. HHS also reports that 43% of those are COVID patients.

However, some hospitals are even worse off. Matney said out of the 65 hospitals with ICU beds, 24 are at 90% occupancy or above.

“We are significantly short-staffed. We are significantly full. We have a lot of people coming into the hospitals that need help. And what that means is you can have significant wait times,” Matney said.

From rescheduling elective surgeries to disruptions in regular care, Matney explained that what happens in the hospital can impact everybody.

Thankfully, Scott said his hospital system isn’t being forced to make difficult decisions yet regarding who gets an ICU bed and who doesn’t, but the current trends are concerning.

“We need a plateau soon,” Scott said. “We are seeing a surge in cases we haven’t seen since January as a system we exceeded our January height.”

Matney said these repeated surges are hurting the morale of SC healthcare workers at a time when hospitals are short-staffed.

“The amount of death coming out of the hospitals because of covid that is preventable is very difficult emotionally for our health care workers who have been in this fight for so long,” she said.

The key to staying safe and keeping hospitals below capacity is getting vaccinated, Scott and Matney said.

For example, according to data from Lexington Medical Center, 169 people were hospitalized with COVID across their hospital as of Wednesday. However, 152 of them are unvaccinated.

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