Over the past few weeks, the debate over mask mandates in schools has become a topic of scrutiny.
Recent county commission meetings have shown disagreement on whether children should wear masks this schoolyear. The meetings became lively – and at some points, hostile – in Ottawa and Kent counties with parents for and against mask-wearing in schools.
13 ON YOUR SIDE turned to Bronson Children’s Hospital to see how the climate of COVID-19 is fairing for children as the school year gets underway.
Bronson has recorded 2,800 positive COVID-19 tests in kids since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Gregory Tiongson, the Medical Director of Bronson Children’s Hospital said in a statement. There have been 1,700 pediatric cases since the start of 2021.
Tiongson says 20 to 25 percent of all of Bronson’s positive tests are from children.
A total of 76 pediatric COVID-19 patients have been admitted to Bronson’s Children Hospital – 51 of those cases in 2021 alone.
Spectrum Health's positive COVID-19 tests for August are showing a similar account. About 20% of the hospital network's positive COVID-19 tests were pediatric patients this month.
Spectrum's top pediatrician, Dr. Hossain Marandi, says his colleagues in the south are struggling with bed shortages in their pediatric ICUs. While he says it hasn't reached a crisis point in West Michigan, it's always a thought on his mind.
"We're very prepared to be able to take care of these kids, but our resources are also limited," Marandi says. "There are only a certain number of beds."
With school just starting up, Marandi is watching the COVID-19 trends like a hawk, and they aren't promising.
"This would be I believe the third time we've had an uptick in the number of cases over the past 18 months."
Bronson Children's Hospital cares for newborns to 17-year-olds. Those have suffered respiratory failure and needed ventilators and intubation in some cases. There have also been children of varying ages admitted with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
“In my clinical opinion, it is never trivial when a child has a COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Tiongson said.
Children with MIS-C and others with milder COVID-19 infections demonstrate a risk for lasting cardiac problems.
Tiongson says using frequent handwashing, social distancing, mask-wearing when indoors and vaccinations will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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