According to Children’s Mercy, 269 patients tested positive for COVID-19 and 259 tested positive for RSV last week among the in- and outpatient children treated at the hospital system from July 26 to Aug. 1.
As recently as late spring, Children’s Mercy averaged roughly 30 positive pediatric COVID-19 cases per week. That number doubled in June and rocketed even higher in July, according to Dr. Jennifer Schuster, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Children’s Mercy Hospital.
There were 10 pediatric COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday afternoon, according to Children’s Mercy.
Schuster said breathing problems and shortness of breath are the most common reasons COVID19-positive children require hospitalization.
“We are definitely seeing an increase, and the number now is on the higher side than we’ve seen throughout the pandemic,” Schuster said.
The length of stay for patients varies, including some patients who remain hospitalized for as little as 24 hours, according to Schuster.
Children’s Mercy has averaged nine to 11 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in recent weeks.
That has been combined with the uptick in RSV cases, including some that also require hospitalization — an unusual circumstance during the summer months.
“It’s a common virus,” Schuster said. “Most children get it within the first year of their life and it circulates usually around flu season. ... This year, we really didn’t see very much RSV, probably because of all the measures to stop COVID-19 — masking, distancing — prevented RSV from circulating as well.”
That trend was evident nationally as well with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting only one pediatric death from influenza during the 2020-21 season.
Schuster attributed the rise in COVID-19 and RSV diagnoses to behavioral changes after health orders were allowed to expire in May and “people have started to unmask, be less socially distant or physically distant, and started going back to their pre-COVID-19 habits.”
Kansas City, Missouri, reinstated a mask mandate indoors for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals this week.
Schools across the Kansas City area, including De Soto USD 232, are reviewing health-related mitigation strategies for the 2021-22 school year, which begins in the coming weeks amid a renewed COVID-19 surge fueled by the delta variant.
The increasing number of cases — both of COVID-19 and RSV — have pushed Children’s Mercy “to capacity,” the hospital said last week.
That doesn’t mean Children’s Mercy was unable to accept any new patients, but it required longer wait times for beds and additional staffing for those beds to accommodate the unusually high number of patients admitted for care.
“To capacity can mean a number of different things,” Schuster said. “It can mean children need to wait on beds. It can mean that there needs to be extra staffing. It can mean a variety of different things. Sometimes, it means that children just need to wait in our emergency department a little bit longer before they can go upstairs and get a bed. But we take care of all those children and keep them safe while they are in the hospital.”
The increased wait times for patient admittance were the biggest issue last week, Schuster said, “but we were able to take care of all the children who came to the hospital.”
“We have seen an increase in RSV and children requiring hospitalization,” she said. “Like everyone else in the community, we’re seeing an increase in our COVID-19 cases. We’ve never lost our ability to take care of children. We have continued to hospitalize children and care for them appropriately.”