SALT LAKE CITY — The current rise in COVID-19 cases has hit Utah children the hardest as 1-in-4 new cases come from the state's school-aged children.
Healthcare workers at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City spoke Thursday about the struggle they face in keep children safe and healthy, but the onslaught of new cases is alarming.
Last winter, just 12% of COVID-19 cases involved children, a number that is currently at 25%. Where staff usually went weeks without seeing a child hospitalized with COVID back in May, there are now an average of 8-12 children at the hospital now, with several in the ICU.
“It’s been 18 months now that we’ve been dealing with this, and, you know, we’re trained to take care of really sick people and deal with the most tragic circumstances in children, but what really hurts is when it’s preventable,” said Andrew Pavia, MD, director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
Pavia says data proves an indirect way to prevent COVID in children is by adults being vaccinated, an area where Utah is falling behind the rest of the country. Adults can also make sure they are masked, and that they're children are masked in school.
“We take that very personally when people tell us that [a mask] doesn’t work or that masks are a personal choice, as if running a stoplight is a personal choice, or smoking in indoor spaces is a personal choice," said Pavia. "But hurting children is something we take personally, and by not protecting children with methods that we know work, you’re hurting children.”
Primary Children's Hospital staff members spoke about the toll the rise in cases involving children has taken on them. Sometimes it's not a matter of beds being available, but the struggle of healthcare workers who are depended on to care for children.
“Since the pandemic has started, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of people having the worst day of their life,” said Jacob Ferrin, RN.
Ferrin says children the hospital are caring for now are dealing with COVID-19, along with other respiratory viruses that are on the rise.
"When kids have that much inflammation going through their body, everything hurts,” Ferrin said. "Just the act of rolling over causing a lot of pain and discomfort."
Pavia spoke about the teenage girl who died of the coronavirus at Primary Children's Hospital last week.
“It was absolutely devastating on the staff here.”
Because of COVID protocols, children are often isolated inside a hospital room, with their parents unable to visit as they would previously do before the pandemic.
Pavia and Ferrin believe its everyone's job to fight the battle against the pandemic, and not just the responsibility of those who work in Utah's hospitals.
“I think it’s really important for people to help us out, as the healthcare team that is here to stand up and back up people on the worst days of their life.”