Baton Rouge Children’s Hospital nears capacity, braces for surge in Covid cases ahead of school year

Dr Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, said the peak in Covid-19 cases right now is double what they saw in the initial outbreak of the pandemic Last year.

“We’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase over the past two weeks,” Dunbar told CNN by phone on Friday. “A good number of more children require hospitalization.”

Dunbar said they are seeing more children with respiratory illness and an increase in those who are critically ill from Covid-19. Many children need respiratory support, whether it’s supplemental oxygen or breathing tubes, he added.

In July alone, 62 children arrived in the emergency room and tested positive for Covid-19, of which 58 have come to the hospital in the past two weeks, Nicole Terry, communications manager for Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. .

By comparison, only 18 children came to the emergency room with Covid-19 during the entire month of June, Terry said.

The July cases represent almost half of all positive cases the hospital has seen this year, as well as almost half of all positive cases in the first wave of the pandemic from March to August 2020, Terry said. .

The children’s hospital treats children as young as 4 weeks up to 17 years old, she said.

The hospital is currently treating seven Covid-19 patients, but Dunbar said they had between eight and 12 patients per day. The hospital registers up to about six admissions per day, with about 50% of those patients going to intensive care, Dunbar said.

“Whenever a child is sick, it’s difficult. You put it in the context of Covid, it’s difficult. Restricted visitation is difficult, certainly for young children. Teenagers can understand what’s going on, young children might not understand, ”Dunbar said.

“There is still the unknown and the fear in Covid, especially what it could mean for a child in the short and long term.”

Dunbar attributes the spike in cases to the Delta variant, which he says is prevalent in the Baton Rouge community, as well as a low number of vaccinations statewide.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 90% of the more than 5,000 Covid cases from July 15 to 21 were people who were not fully vaccinated.

Dunbar said he anticipates an increase in cases when the school year begins in just a few weeks. Although the state’s health department recommends masking in schools, Dunbar said each local district is in control.

In West Baton Rouge schools, masks are recommended but not required for students when they return to class on August 9, according to the district’s website.

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The East Baton Rough Parish school system said on its website that guidelines would be released on August 3, just a week before students start school on August 11.

To keep children safe at school, Dunbar said students 12 and older should get vaccinated. For students who are not eligible for the vaccine, Dunbar said the answer is masking and social distancing.

Preparing for the planned increase, Dunbar said the hospital is lucky as many hospitals in the south are experiencing staff shortages. Notre-Dame du Lac will increase its staff and open new hospital beds.

Dunbar said most children’s hospitals this summer, especially in the south, have also been very busy with RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

“You start with the pandemic for the last 18 months and then the RSV for the last two months, it seems like one thing after another that keeps our teams very busy,” Dunbar said.

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