Hysmith, who is medical director of infection prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, said the influx was alarming.
“We went from single digits with not really sick kids to 28 kids in a matter of a few weeks, and some of them are quite sick,” he said.
In Shelby County, which includes Memphis, 37 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, compared to Tennessee’s full vaccination rate of 40 percent.
An increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, an illness that primarily affects children and has symptoms similar to those of Covid, has also made things worse, Hysmith said.
“We’re sitting at about 95-97 percent occupancy right now, which is normally where we are in the dead of winter,” he said. “So that’s concerning, because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.”
The HHS data show that pediatric hospitalizations when adjusted for population are highest in Alabama, Florida, Delaware, Louisiana and Oklahoma; in all but Delaware, full vaccination rates are lower than the national rate.
Other data show an accelerating trend, including a study released this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which showed that Covid cases among children rose in the first week of August to more than 93,800 from a low of about 8,400 in June. Reuters reported that the U.S. hit a record of 1,900 children hospitalized on Saturday.
Hospitalizations are rising as some children return to the classroom in an acrimonious back-to-school kickoff that has politicians, parents and school officials fighting over mask mandates.
In Texas, which leads the country with an average of 219 children a day in the hospital for Covid, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an executive order last month banning vaccination and mask mandates. Several school districts defied the order with mask mandates, and on Sunday, the state Supreme Court temporarily blocked such mandates in Dallas and Bexar counties. (Abbott tested positive for Covid on Tuesday.)
Texas, with 45 percent of the state fully vaccinated, is averaging 15,000 Covid cases a day, at the higher end of state Covid rates when adjusted for population.