Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City continues to see a higher number of kids needing treatment for COVID-19 compared to last year over two months after school resumed, a hospital leader said Friday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Primary Children’s Hospital continues to see a higher number of kids needing treatment for COVID-19 compared to last year, more than two months after school resumed, a hospital leader said Friday.
“When people tell you that kids don’t get very sick, you should walk in our shoes every day,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Primary, during a Friday news conference.
On Friday, state health officials confirmed 1,810 new COVID-19 cases and 18 more deaths. The rolling, seven-day average for positive tests is 1,571 per day, and the positive rate of those tested is 17.1%.
Kids comprise about 20% of Utah’s new coronavirus cases, Primary officials noted, and about half of those cases are between the ages of 5 and 10.
The children who end up in the hospital with COVID-19 are “luckily … the tip of the iceberg,” Pavia acknowledged, as most develop only mild symptoms. But getting infected means potentially missing many days of school and, for an estimated 5% to 8% of all cases in children, developing long-COVID symptoms that can last months later, according to Pavia.
Primary Children’s Hospital is seeing an average of eight to 12 children each day due to COVID-19, which Pavia said is an increase over September “and much more than we had last year.” Three to five of those children on average are in the intensive care unit.
When asked how many of those patients are from Utah, as the hospital treats kids throughout the Intermountain West, Pavia estimates three-quarters of them are state residents, on average.
Along with the increase in youth cases, Pavia said the hospital is also seeing more cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, also known as MIS-C.
Doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital, which is investigating the disease, have described MIS-C as a rare complication of COVID-19 infection that’s believed to be the result of an “extreme immune response” to SARS-CoV-2. It mostly affects school-age children, but has also been reported in infants and young adults. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, red eyes, rash and fatigue.
It can result in severe illness to multiple organ systems, such as the heart, lungs, blood, kidneys or brain. Children who develop MIS-C are often hospitalized and require intensive care due to low blood pressure, shock or heart issues.
Pavia noted that MIS-C typically begins about 30 days after an original COVID-19 infection, and can affect kids who had only a mild infection. He said the hospital has now seen 120 children with the complication, and continues to observe an increase in the weeks following the start of the school year.
The best way to prevent MIS-C is to prevent getting the infection in the first place, even a mild infection, the pediatric infectious disease specialist said, celebrating the approval of a “powerful new tool” for kids ages 5-11 in the vaccine’s impending approval for that age group.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 and recommended emergency use authorization. It could be available as soon as next week after the federal Centers for Disease and Prevention gives its approval and provides guidelines for administering it to children, Pavia noted.
Latest Utah data
School-age children accounted for 349 of the new cases reported Friday — 176 of those were ages 5-10, 80 were 11-13, and 93 were 14-18, according to the Utah Department of Health.
On Friday, 535 people were hospitalized with the disease in Utah, one less than the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reported on Thursday.
Since Thursday’s report, health care workers administered 12,856 additional vaccine doses, including booster shots, bringing the total number of doses given in Utah to 3,731,272.
In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have faced 19 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 10.8 times greater risk of being hospitalized, and 5.3 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, health department officials said.
Since Feb. 1, unvaccinated residents have seen nine times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.4 times greater risk of being hospitalized, and 3.7 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, the data shows.
Of the cases reported Friday, 404 — or about 22% — were considered “breakthrough,” meaning they were patients who had been fully vaccinated more than two weeks before testing positive. The state confirmed 18 more breakthrough hospitalizations and four breakthrough deaths.
State health officials and doctors have noted receiving the vaccine does not mean someone will not contract the coronavirus, but in most cases it is protective against serious illness. The vaccine also does not cause a person to get COVID-19.
Since vaccines became available to the public early this year, the state has confirmed 28,115 breakthrough cases in the 549,882 total cases since the pandemic began, or just under 5% of all cases. Utah health officials have also confirmed 1,358 total breakthrough hospitalizations and 183 breakthrough deaths out of the 3,190 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The latest deaths include:
- A Box Elder County man between the ages of 45 and 64 who was hospitalized when he died.
- A Davis County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
- Two Davis County men, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Duchesne County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- Two Salt Lake County women, 65-84, one of whom was hospitalized and one who was not.
- A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.
- A Uintah County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- Two Utah County women, one who was hospitalized and one who was not.
- A Utah County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Washington County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
- A Washington County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Washington County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A Washington County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Weber County woman, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.