SAN ANTONIO – Experts say there are still many unknowns about how COVID-19 affects children, which means there’s much more to learn about how the virus affects kids.
“This disease -- two things, it’s very contagious, and the other thing is there are so many unknowns, especially in our pediatric population with our children,” said Dr. Peter DeYoung, chief medical officer at Methodist Children’s Hospital. “And so I am hesitant to be too comfortable in saying it’s a lesser disease for children, especially with us not seeing the long-term effects.”
Methodist Children’s Hospital saw its first surge in cases in June and July, with about 30 hospitalizations. DeYoung said nearly half of them were asymptomatic cases, where a child was being checked-in for surgery and was tested as protocol and ended up testing positive.
The increase of cases in the hospital lines up with what the Metropolitan Health District says about the rise in cases. To date, more than 3,000 children have tested positive for the virus, and there are more than 760 active cases currently. Pediatric patients, people 0 to 18 years old, make up about 5% of the county’s hospitalizations.
According to data released by Metro Health on Wednesday, from May to July, 36% of children hospitalized were ages 0 to 2 years old. The second-largest group was 15 to 17 years old at 23%.
DeYoung says older teens appear to have more complications with the virus. Most children at his hospital just needed oxygen. He said there was one serious case involving multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
There have been no deaths reported at Methodist Children’s Hospital, and there is one COVID-19 patient currently being treated. There are 11 beds available for COVID-19 patients at the hospital.
DeYoung said staff members are preparing a plan of action for later this fall as kids are expected to return to in-person learning, and with that comes a possible surge in cases.
“The other thing that really scares us is when other viral illnesses come into effect, like influenza and (respiratory syncytial virus),” DeYoung said. “How will the trio of those three interact with each other? And will it create a much sicker COVID patient or not? And it’s really so many unknowns.”