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Despite Rising Hospitalizations, Omicron Is Not Worse for Children

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The recent coronavirus surge in the US, largely driven by the highly contagious variant of Omicron, has resulted in a worrying surge in hospital admissions for children, not to mention national fear among parents.

Several states reported an approximately 50 percent increase in pediatric admissions for Covid-19 in December. New York City saw the most dramatic increase, with 68 children hospitalized last week, a four-fold increase from two weeks earlier.

But even when experts voiced their concern about a sharp rise in hospital admissions – an increase more than double that of adults – doctors and researchers said they had seen no evidence that Omicron was any more threatening to children.

In fact, preliminary data suggest that Omicron appears to cause milder disease in children when compared to the Delta variant, similar to early findings in adults.

“I think the most important story to tell here is that the severity has decreased a lot and the risk of significant serious illness seems to be lower,” said Dr. David Rubin, a researcher at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.

Instead, much of the surge in pediatric admissions is due to the sheer number of children contracting both Delta and the more contagious variant of Omicron, he and other experts said, as well as the low vaccination rates in children over 5 years of age.

Younger children are not yet entitled to a vaccination, and only children 16 and over are entitled to a booster, which is the most effective protection against infection and hospitalization.

The result is that overall children are slightly less protected from the virus than adults. In the week ending December 23, approximately 199,000 childhood cases were reported nationwide, up 50 percent from early December, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

According to the academy, around one in ten American children has tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

Infected children become ill far less often than adults. But across the country an average of 1,200 children were hospitalized with the coronavirus every day last week, up from 800 in late November, according to the Department of Health and Social Affairs. (Some of these children were hospitalized with other medical problems.)

Those numbers are well below the highs reached last September, although experts also fear a wave of pediatric hospital admissions in the coming weeks fueled by the spread of Omicron, holiday get-togethers, and returns to classrooms after January 1.

“We’re just holding our breath and getting ready for a tsunami,” said Dr. Patricia Manning, chief of staff, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

In interviews, hospital directors and intensive care physicians said that almost all children who were hospitalized with Covid had one thing in common: They were unvaccinated or not vaccinated enough.

Updated

Dec. 28, 2021, 9:11 p.m. ET

“What we see in our intensive care unit makes it crystal clear that vaccinations are the most important thing you can do to protect your child from getting this virus,” said Dr. James Schneider, chief of pediatric intensive care at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in New York, which serves nearly two dozen hospitals in the Northwell Health System.

In the past few days, Dr. Schneider, there were five to eight children with Covid in intensive care compared to none or one in November.

It remains unclear to what extent the Omicron variant is responsible for increasing hospital admissions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered their estimates for the prevalence of Omicron from 73 percent of all Covid cases in the week ending December 18 to 59 percent on Tuesday.

Recent data suggests that Omicron is far more common in some states, especially the Northeast. In Connecticut, for example, the variant is responsible for more than 80 percent of new cases. In New York it’s 90 percent.

To make matters worse, alarming hospital admissions numbers can be misleading because they sometimes include all children who tested positive for the coronavirus on admission.

Some hospitals across the country have reported positivity rates of up to 20 percent in children. But the vast majority were asymptomatic and were hospitalized with other health problems, officials say.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Important Things You Should Know

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New CDC guidelines In hopes of avoiding further disruptions to daily life, the CDC reduced the period that certain infected Americans must withdraw from 10 to five days. This change only applies to people who have no symptoms or who have no fever and whose other symptoms improve.

Dr. Rubin said the real-time data he analyzed as a senior investigator using PolicyLab’s Covid-19 predictive model suggested that in southwest Pennsylvania, where Omicron dominates, the proportion of pediatric admissions requiring critical care was around the corner Half down since early fall and continued to fall over the past month.

And the rate of pediatric Covid recordings in much of the country is still below the high of what is normally seen with seasonal flu, he added.

Part of the recent surge is most likely linked to delays in finding medical care for children as infections rebounded, combined with the spread of winter viruses, which can make medically vulnerable children more difficult and can lead to hospitalizations.

“While we are definitely seeing more transmission among children, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, I think we need to be very careful to avoid sending the message that Omicron is an unusual risk to children,” said Dr. Ruby.

Even though children have a small risk of getting seriously ill, medical professionals warn that the coronavirus can, in rare cases, lead to serious consequences: 790 Americans under the age of 18 have died since the pandemic began.

And despite the cautious optimism that the Omicron variant will be even safer for children than its predecessors, experts admit that it is still too early to know for sure.

“There are just so many reservations,” said Dr. Rick Malley, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital who has yet to see a significant increase in admissions for Covid-19.

He said he was waiting for more conclusive data on length of hospital stays and whether young patients require oxygen or intubation. “It is premature to predict what will happen to Omicron because this virus has surprised us time and time again,” said Dr. Malley.

But one thing is beyond dispute: Omicron’s uncanny ability to spread among human hosts, even when fully vaccinated. At Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, nearly a quarter of all children admitted in the past few days tested positive, up from 5 percent during the peak of the delta surge last summer. According to Dr. James Versalovic, the hospital’s chief pathologist, Omicron is responsible for more than 90 percent of these infections.

So far, however, the number of infections has not led to a large increase in the number of children who have to be hospitalized for Covid – around 50 in recent days, up from a high of 65 a few months ago.

Although Dr. Versalovic was tired of having survived three previous waves, he hoped that advances in the treatment of seriously ill patients and an increase in vaccinations would save most children from dire consequences.

“Of course I’m concerned, but I’m also optimistic that we can tone down Omicron’s influence,” he said.

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Health

Severe problems facing American health sector

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According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals in nearly half of America’s states are at near capacity as the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeping the country hits record numbers of infections.

President Joe Biden has ordered more military health workers sent to “hard-hit” states to help with staffing shortages and provide relief efforts.

Announcing the phased deployment of 1,000 military health workers, Biden said, “I know we are all frustrated as we enter this new year,” and reiterated his message that COVID-19 remains a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He says the military operation would help hard-pressed hospitals “nationwide.”

Hospitals set to receive the military operations have warned teams ranging in size from seven to 25 may not be enough to slow the surge.

Bob Riney, the president of public health at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, which has already received federal aid and expects more military medics, says, “We have systemic challenges[with]an incredible volume and very, very tired doctors… and that goes for everyone Healthcare systems that have been in the midst of this surge,” he adds: “There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

The military will support health systems in states where patients suffering from other diseases classified as “non-urgent” are postponing their treatment to make way for Covid infections. They will also fill staffing gaps as more infected healthcare workers take days off themselves to recover while patient demand grows.

The Pentagon says it has about 1,000 additional active-duty medical troops ready to deploy to civilian hospitals across the country as needed.

In addition to active-duty support, more than 15,000 National Guard Soldiers have been activated in 49 states to help with the pandemic response in areas such as clinical care, testing and immunizations.

The announcements are strikingly similar to the earlier days of the pandemic in the United States, when the military was called up on active duty and hospitals struggled to treat waves of patients sick with COVID-19. The only difference is that in these difficult times vaccines were not yet approved.

Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin are reportedly among the states suffering from particular shortages of intensive care beds.

At around seven percent, Texas had the fewest free beds in the intensive care unit. Data suggests that Southern and Midwestern states were disproportionately affected.

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee says hospitals will temporarily suspend non-urgent procedures “so that as much capacity and staff can be dedicated to urgent needs, to the people who need it right now.”

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers says National Guard members are being trained to become certified nursing assistants to support hospitals and nursing homes. He says, “We anticipate that the first round of staffing and relief efforts will allow skilled nursing facilities to open 200 or more beds by the end of February” as the state announced a record number of confirmed cases.

The state of Alabama this week reported a record number of children hospitalized due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant of coronavirus. At least 60 children had been hospitalized and 13 were being treated in intensive care.
The state saw a record series of cases in January, when state health officials told the media they were “extremely concerned” about the increase in hospitalizations for children and parents to get their children vaccinated.

As the surge spreads from state to state, the impact on healthcare systems has worsened with the depletion of even the reserve of traveling nurses, who are also becoming infected in droves.

Lisa Greenwood, associate dean of nursing at Madison College, which trains members of the Guard, has warned that “our healthcare providers are beyond exhausted. We just don’t have enough staff to take care of everyone who is sick.”

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that 19 states had at least 85% of adult intensive care unit beds occupied, while 24 states had at least 80% of staffed hospital beds occupied.

More than 5.5 million new cases were registered in seven days, far surpassing all previous records. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has also hit new highs.

More than 2,224 deaths from COVID-19 were recorded as of Jan. 13, according to US media. The daily average of deaths stands at 1,873, double the level at the end of November 2021. Experts say these trends are expected to continue with the fasting spread of infections.

The average of new cases has reached over 800,000 per day, an unprecedented pandemic high. More than 889,000 new cases were reported as of Jan. 13, and more than nine million cases have been logged since the New Year. At the current rate, the US can expect to have 70 million documented COVID cases at any time, depending on what data is released that the American public considers a reliable source.

The cumulative death toll has reached 870,000. But the extra deaths are now over 1.1 million, according to the Economist. Historically, the magnitude of deaths rivals the magnitude of population deaths during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Meanwhile, the national infection rate has reached 26 percent, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, underscoring the massive undercount announced and the scale of infections that remain widespread across the country.

Biden has also promised he will direct his administration to procure an additional 500 million COVID-19 home tests to meet rising demand. The White House had previously pledged to make 500 million tests available starting in January.

The US President won the presidential race by vowing to eliminate the threat of the pandemic and vowed to deal with the virus much better than his predecessor. After his first year in office, things are not going according to plan. In recent weeks, Covid-19 cases have reached record highs; The number of deaths is rising across the country, and the number of Americans hospitalized with the disease is now higher than at any previous point during the pandemic.

Long queues for a Covid test and low availability of home tests have drawn criticism of White House preparedness, while disparate policies and confused messages from public health officials have left the disease-weary public both frustrated and confused.

This has led to a significant drop in public confidence in the new White House, coupled with a drop in Biden’s overall approval ratings.

Despite attempts by the Biden administration to downplay the dangers posed by Omicron, the pressure on America’s healthcare systems is leading to a severe health crisis caused by staffing shortages, to which the White House has no serious answer other than a pledge to deploy more medical troops.

The US president blames too many Americans for still “sitting on the sidelines” in the fight against the pandemic for not taking the vaccine. “If you don’t get vaccinated, do it,” he says. “But as long as we have tens of millions of people not getting vaccinated, we will have full hospitals and needless deaths,” Biden added.

Critics argue the government hasn’t done enough to convince the public to take the vaccine.

That comes as the Supreme Court last week dealt another blow to the president’s vaccine-only plan by denying a national vaccination or testing requirement for major US companies.

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California tries ‘whole person care’ for social problems

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Faced with myriad social pathologies, California will try a new approach – a more integrated and aggressive treatment.

As it grapples with the stubborn COVID-19 pandemic, California also grapples with a smorgasbord of equally resilient social pathologies, including chronic illness, homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and street crime.

State and local governments have developed programs to mitigate the effects of these diseases, but they generally operate in silos, each targeting a specific condition, with no apparent coordination with others, even though the individuals they serve very often have multiple issues to have.

For example, a homeless person not only has no shelter, but is poor and likely has medical problems and suffers from mental illness, alcoholism and/or drug addiction affecting the criminal justice system.

Moreover, official approaches have been largely passive, offering those affected opportunities to improve their lot but, except on rare occasions, not requiring them to cooperate.

Get a savvy journalist on what’s going on in California every Friday with a weekly roundup of Dan’s column.

The 2022-23 state budget proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signals that the state will begin to address chronic social problems differently, integrating services aimed at “whole care,” intervening more aggressively, and, in some cases, taking responsibility take over those whose lives are out of control.

At the heart of this new approach is California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal, or CalAIM for short, which Newsom hailed as a “unique opportunity to completely transform California’s (Medi-Cal) system.” when he signed an enabling law. Medi-Cal, California’s health care system for the poor, has more than 14 million enrollments, more than a third of the state’s residents.

CalAIM is described in the budget as “a framework that encompasses broad-based delivery system, program and payment reform across the Medi-Cal program (that) recognizes the opportunity to advance the holistic approach to care that integrates health care and other social determinants.” of health at the national level with a clear focus on improving health and reducing health gaps and inequalities, including improving and expanding behavioral health care.”

“Previous research has shown that the most costly (Medi-Cal) enrollments tend to be treated for multiple chronic conditions (such as diabetes or heart failure) and often suffer from mental illness or substance use disorders,” said Legislative Budget Counsel Gabe Petek , says in an analysis by CalAIM. “The costs for this demographic are often driven by frequent hospitalizations and high prescription drug costs. In part, social factors such as homelessness play a role in the high utilization of these enrolled students.”

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Because Medi-Cal serves such a large portion of the state’s population, CalAIM could have a massive societal impact – especially since it envisages a greatly expanded role. For example, insurance companies and other Medi-Cal providers will assign their customers Personal Care Managers who will not only oversee their medical care but also improve other aspects of their lives, such as: B. Housing and income support.

The state’s new approach will also impact California’s criminal justice system, which has evolved away from punishment and toward rehabilitation over the past decade. Newsom also suggests that inmates be enrolled in Medi-Cal prior to their release from prison and thus receive a wider range of supportive services.

This automatic registration is symbolic of the more activist or pushy attitude Newsom advocates, and another example could be a huge shift in mental health. During his budget press conference, he again hinted that he wants to put people with serious mental illnesses through a “conservatory” process that could force them into housing and treatment rather than allowing them to roam the streets.

These are major shifts in direction in the medical and human services of a state that does not have a positive track record of administering highly conceptual policies. We can only wait and see if it works.

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Tewksbury Board of Health issues advisory | News

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TEWKSBURY – Following an emergency meeting on Friday, January 8, 2022, the Tewksbury Board of Health, along with the Tewksbury Health Department, debated and then voted unanimously to issue a health advisory in the wake of skyrocketing COVID-19 case numbers across the community.

Health Director Shannon (Sullivan) Gillis said the city is “in the middle of a surge” and cases are not limited to the elderly. In fact, “most cases are between 10 and 40 years old,” Gillis said.

Gillis explained that the city only knows of those infected who have taken a lab test and are being tracked across the state. COVID-positive at-home testing isn’t included, and so the city knows the positivity rate is far higher.

Health Committee Chair Raymond Barry said the city has been surpassing the state rate of COVID-19 infections since early September.

“I’m worried about that spike,” Barry said.

Several factors are at play, including the challenge of finding a test kit, long lines to get a PCR test, and the revelation that some home test kits are fake.

“I thought I just had a cold and when I tested [earlier this season] I found myself being positive,” Barry said.

To inform residents and businesses and remind them of previous protocols, the board issued the recommendation to refocus awareness.

“Face masks are still recommended, and they can also protect you against the flu,” Barry said.

Social distancing should continue to be observed, hand washing is encouraged and people should avoid staying in close contact with groups of people for long periods of time whenever possible. Barry suggested that older people and those at high risk should consider returning to stores for the early hours or off-peak hours.

The advice comes close to an indoor mask mandate but aims to urge people to exercise caution with their day out in the community. Member Maria Zaroulis said gatherings of large groups are contributing to the “increasing numbers” and said people “need to be extra careful” and that people are spreading the virus without even realizing it, citing the fact that a person can have no symptoms but still have COVID-19 and spread the disease.

Member Charles Roux said: “The virus is not going anywhere,” saying, “I’m not against masks, I’m not against vaccination, but people know better and people know when to wear masks.”

The advisory includes a reminder of all the steps to take to minimize the spread of COVID and flu. Roux asked companies to come back to some of the hygiene protocols “as a recommendation”.

The recommendation was issued Friday and included a Code Red appeal to residents. The advisory includes recommendations to get vaccinated or boosted, wear a mask, stay two meters away from others, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, take tests to prevent spread to others, wash hands frequently, cover, clean and disinfect coughs and sneezes and take precautions when travelling, and it urges companies to use best practice protocols for disinfection and social distancing.

According to the CDC, the Omicron variant is highly contagious. While the effects of the variant do not appear to cause as many illnesses individually as the delta variant, the impact on health and education infrastructures has been devastating.

For the full guide, visit the city’s website at www.tewksbury-ma.gov.

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