As colleges reopen in Texas, children with COVID-19 fill hospitals in file numbers – Houston Public Media

A masked student from Love Elementary School in Houston.

According to state health data, the number of pediatric COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals is now higher than at any point during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, hospitals across the state reported 218 pediatric patients confirmed to have COVID-19, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed.

On December 24, the previous high, that number was 163. Before that, the high on August 10, 2020 was 153. The numbers do not indicate how many of them were in intensive care beds.

The number of children in Texas hospitals is particularly worrying for health officials as schools reopen. On Friday morning, Houston ISD – the state’s largest school district – reported a total of 118 active COVID-19 cases, 43 of which are among high school students. 62 percent of the confirmed cases are in elementary school buildings.

“We are seeing the greatest number of children in our hospitals … in the entire history of this pandemic,” Texas Medical Center CEO Bill McKeon told Houston Matters this week. “This is really alarming, and these are very, very sick children.”

Nearly 20% of the active COVID-19 cases tracked by the Texas Medical Center are children, McKeon added.

Last month, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning local Texas governments and school districts from imposing mask and vaccine mandates. This order has faced legal challenges as officials cite the need for masks to slow the spread of the disease.

At least 43 school districts across the state are currently opposed to this ordinance, according to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.

Paxton’s office has sued to prevent school districts, counties and cities from issuing such mandates. But on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court denied a motion to lift temporary restraints against Abbott’s policy so that those counties and school districts can maintain masking requirements for the time being.

Paxton also filed a lawsuit against San Antonio ISD because all of the county’s employees must be vaccinated.

The hospital admission dates come when the more transmissible coronavirus delta variant spreads. For the past week, more than 40 children have been treated with COVID-19 every day at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. According to Dr. Lara S. Shekerdemian, the hospital’s intensive care manager, about a third of these patients are in intensive care beds, and 10% of their intensive care beds are now full.

Shekerdemian told Houston Matters on Thursday that while Texas Children’s has capacity, the recent surge is cause for concern.

“We are in the middle of a really significant increase in the number of pediatric patients in our hospital,” said Shekerdemian. “I think it’s safe to say that the numbers we’re seeing now are likely to beat our previous surge earlier this year.”

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