JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – While COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high, pediatric patients infected with the virus have steadily dropped over the last week in the largest hospital system in the Tri-Cities region.
The concern that surrounded re-entering the classroom seemed warranted at the beginning of the school year when a larger portion of school-age kids contracted COVID-19 than ever before in the pandemic. Not only were kids infected, but hospitalized also.
After nearly tripling as a share of total cases in August, the rate among schoolkids has dropped back over the past few weeks.
On August 2, cases among kids were less than 14 % of the total COVID-19 cases in Northeast Tennessee. That rose to about 35 % by August 16 and stayed in that range through the end of the month.
September has seen the ratio drop steadily to 19% as of Tuesday.
In sheer numbers, weekly kids’ cases exploded. Growing more than ninefold from 130 to 1,200 in just three weeks to August 23. The numbers are now down to 821, off more than 550 from their August 30 peak of 1,379.
Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift reported at a Ballad Health COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday that in recent weeks, the hospital system’s virus testing data showed 20 to 40 % of cases were pediatric. Now, she said that number has dropped to about 15%.
Ballad Health reported Wednesday that Niswonger Children’s Hospital is treating one pediatric patient. That’s the lowest number in over a month.
“One, I think, positive data point is we only have one pediatric patient in Niswonger Children’s Hospital of this time is down from eight earlier this week. And fortunately, it is one of the lowest numbers we’ve had in recent weeks so very good news there,” said Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton.
One of those released was a local teen, Conner Begley, who spent more than 40 days at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.
“It was obviously very emotional, not only for just the Children’s Hospital members but everyone within the Ballad community. We have obviously been praying and hoping for the best for Connor, and his family for some time now. It truly was a miracle and we’re so, so thankful that Connor, got to leave the hospital,” Deaton said at a Ballad briefing Wednesday.
“This young man was very very sick for a long time and so we’re just so thankful that he got to leave the hospital this week.”
Though pediatric COVID cases may be sliding downward, Ballad officials warned parents to look out for signs of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C).
“We reported two MIS-C’s just in the last couple of weeks and we are projecting that we’ll see more admissions with MIS-C,” said Swift.
She urged parents, as COVID cases rise across the region, that parents monitor their children not only for symptoms of the novel coronavirus but of MIS-C as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports MIS-C causes inflammation in different body areas.
- Abdominal (gut) pain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Chest tightness/pain
- Feeling extra tired
- Low blood pressure
- Neck pain
“It’s really important for parents to be aware of MIS-C, to know what symptoms to watch for, and to seek care,” Swift added.
She urged everyone who is unvaccinated to get the shot in hopes of ending this pandemic.
“We truly are nowhere close to being out of the woods just yet. Our team members are exhausted, they’re witnessing horrible sickness and death. Every single day. And it’s hard because it’s preventable,” Swift said.