By Rachell Sanchez-Smith
The recent COVID-19 resurgence in Arkansas has led to a 15% increase in cases for children under age 10 in July, the highest of any age group that month.
The 10-and-under age group saw 3,208 additional cases between June 30 and July 30, a 15% increase in the total number of COVID-19 cases, according to an Arkansascovid.com analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data. The 25-34 age group suffered a significant outbreak as well, experiencing a 12% increase with 6,780 additional cases.
The lowest increase involved the elderly, ages 65 and older, who saw 3,997 additional cases, or an 8% increase.
Similarly, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital said they have experienced a record number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations.
“We’ve noticed a very significant increase in the number of kids being admitted to the Children’s Hospital with COVID-19,” said Dr. Rick Barr, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Arkansas Children’s reported 24 patients who have tested positive, and the high has represented a 50% increase from any prior daily hospitalization peak since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve had zero to three, maybe five kids in the hospital at any one time,” Dr. Barr said. “Today (August 2), we started out the day with 24 children in our hospitals with COVID-19, and eight of them were in the ICU, and five were mechanically ventilated.”
This increase is attributed to the circulation of the highly transmissible delta variant in the state. Because of its increased contagious nature, the delta variant has also affected younger populations, with health officials citing children and young adults as a high risk against the variant.
“We’re really seeing a difference now in the delta variant causing respiratory disease in kids,” Dr. Barr said. “Our message is that we’re thinking about it as a totally different virus, almost… It acts so differently than the other variants, especially with kids, it’s so much more contagious.”
Low vaccination rates among younger people have also put those populations at risk for contracting COVID-19. In addition to the reduced vaccine uptake, children ages 11 and younger are ineligible for the vaccine, leaving many children unprotected against the virus.
“We’re highly encouraging parents, teenagers, and anyone who can get a vaccine to get a vaccine, especially to protect the younger kids who can’t get a vaccine. The best way to protect them is for other people to be vaccinated.” Dr. Barr said.
The Food and Drug Administration has urged Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to expand their trial size for an emergency approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, The New York Times reported. Pfizer said they expect to have results for the age group in September, increasing studies and results for younger children ages two to five to follow afterward.
–Robert Stewart and Rob Wells contributed to this report