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Record number of children test positive for COVID at hospitals: Here's the context

Some children are admitted to the hospital because COVID is causing severe illness. Others are in the hospital for another reason and test positive while admitted.

TAMPA, Fla. — With the record number of children testing positive for COVID at the hospital dominating headlines, it's important to give the numbers context.

The omicron variant has proven to be the most contagious variant since the start of the pandemic. It is also believed to be less severe than other variants. 

In the United States, omicron cases have surged. 

The Florida Department of Health reports that between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13, the state's percent positivity for new COVID-19 cases was 29.3 percent.  

The percent positivity for children in Florida ages 5-11 is even higher at 31.2 percent. In other words, roughly three out of every 10 children between the ages of 5-11 tested for COVID-19 last week in Florida were positive.

Percent positivity for Floridians between the ages 12-19 was 32.5 percent.

Below is a snip from the state's report with age breakdown.

Credit: FL DOH

Throughout the pandemic, health officials have warned about more severe cases of COVID-19 in people who are elderly or have comorbidities. Thus, children are typically at a lower risk of developing the most serious cases of COVID that require hospitalizations. Yet, even though omicron appears less severe than other variants, infectious disease experts warn that anytime a virus is highly-contagious, we're bound to see more bad outcomes simply because the virus will touch more people.

The CDC says the best way to prevent yourself from having a severe case of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. All people age 5 and older are eligible.

According to the state's latest report, 18 percent of kids in Florida ages 5-11 are vaccinated and 59 percent of people ages 12-19 are vaccinated.

Dr. Joseph Perno, the chief medical officer at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, recommends all eligible children get vaccinated and/or boosted.

Perno is seeing more COVID patients than ever before. At the time of this article, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital had 20 patients admitted with COVID.

"From a pediatric standpoint, we’re probably at our worst point of the pandemic right now," said Dr. Perno who estimated about half of the COVID patients were in the intensive care unit.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, as of January 18, 2022, 187 children in Florida are in the hospital with COVID.

Perno said, "We have more kids requiring hospitalization, sometimes it’s hard to pick out if they’re here because of omicron or incidentally."

The following is a snip of University of South Florida Professor Dr. Jason Salemi's dashboard. Salemi's dashboard is intended to give people a clear visualization of COVID-19 in their community based on the most current data.

His chart shows pediatric hospitalizations are just now reaching levels higher than during the delta surge in the summer of 2021.

Credit: Jason Salemi

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