Aug. 20 was a good day in the pediatricat Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Carvase Perrilloux, a two-month-old baby who’d earlier with respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19, was finally ready to breathe without the ventilator keeping his tiny body alive. “You did it!” nurses in PPE cooed as they removed the tube from his airway, and he took his first solo gasp, bare toes kicking.
Downstairs, Quintetta Edwards was preparing for her 17-year-old son, Nelson Alexis III, to be discharged afterin the hospital with COVID-19—first in the ICU, then stabilizing on an acute-care floor. “Fortunately, he never regressed,” Edwards says from outside Nelson’s room, the door marked with signs COVID-19 exposure inside. “He’s progressing, slowly but surely.”
On Aug. 6, Louisiana Governorstatewide had been diagnosed with COVID-19 over four days. That same week, about a quarter of Louisiana children by the state’s most extensive health system turned out to have the virus. The nurses and doctors who care for the sickest patients at Children’s Hospital New Orleans (CHNO) have to take the good where they can take these days. Medical New Orleans. The hospital has hired about 150 new nurses to help manage high patient counts.
Kathleen Flynn for TIME
Seventy young patients ended up inat CHNO during the 30 days ending Aug. 23. Before this ; the hospital had never had to care for more than seven COVID-19 patients at a time, and usually fewer than that; on any given day in August, that number has been at least in the mid-teens, enough that the facility had to call in a medical strike team from Rhode Island to help manage the surge.
CHNO isn’t alone. The extra-transmissiblehas ushered in a new chapter of the pandemic. For the first time, pediatric hospitals are struggling to treat the number of young patients developing . A record high of more than 1,900 children was hospitalized nationwide on Aug. 14—and unlike during previous spikes, infections have so far been clustered mainly in states with coverage, meaning hospitals in under-vaccinated states like Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Alabam, a and Texas are drowning. “Our hospital system across Alabama is beyond capacity.
we had net negative ICU beds, and that’s pediatric and adult together,” says Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of the division of pediatric at Children’s of Alabama. “Doctors are doing CPR in the back of pickup trucks.” grim scenario may seem shocking, given one of the pandemic’s long-standing silver linings: that children, for the most part, are spared from the worst of COVID-19. About 400 children nationwide have died from COVID-19 , and most pediatric hospitals have seen no more than a handful of patients at a time—which makes the current surge in the South and parts of the Midwest especially unnerving.
There is no evidence that theis causing more severe disease than previous strains, says Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) committee on infectious diseases. Less than 2% of children caught COVID-19 during this wave landed in the hospital—roughly the same percentage as during earlier phases of the pandemic, according to a TIME analysis of AAP and U.S. Department of Health and Human . An even smaller percentage of children die from the disease, though some have developed MIS-C. Two-month-old Carvase Perrilloux undergoes an extubation procedure, taking him off the ventilator that has kept him alive.