Child hospitalizations on Peninsula low, says health officer

Clallam reports 87 new cases confirmed in one day

Despite the omicron variant surging across the nation, creating reports of an alarming increase in the number of children admitted to hospitals, Clallam and Jefferson counties have seen only a handful of children hospitalized with the virus.

“Across the board, kids are much less commonly hospitalized when they contract COVID,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, on Thursday. She did not provide specific numbers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday that, nationwide between Dec. 21 and Dec. 27, an average of 378 children per day were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, a 66 percent increase from the week before, The Associated Press said.

The previous high during the pandemic was in early September when child hospitalizations averaged 342 per day, the CDC said.

Despite that increase, children still make up a small percentage of those hospitalized with COVID-19 nationally, and those younger than 18 who are admitted appear overall to be less sick than those who were hospitalized during the surge of the delta variant, the CDC said.

Cases rise

Berry made her comments about infections in children on a day when Clallam County confirmed 87 new cases of COVID-19. That’s not the greatest single-day increase the county has seen, but it is high.

Jefferson County reported 12 new cases Thursday.

Clallam County has reported 6,217 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The case rate has climbed from 658 per 100,000 population to 766 per 100,000.

Jefferson County has reported 1,508 total cases, with a case rate increase to 416 per 100,000.

Nine people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Clallam County. Two are in Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend. The severity of their infections was not available on Thursday.

The health departments don’t track the vaccination status in infections, Berry said.

“We don’t have that information,” she said.

“We do track deaths from COVID by vaccination status, but with the surge in the cases, our ability to get that level of granular info about each hospitalization is limited,” Berry said.

Hospital workers

As of Thursday, nine of Jefferson Healthcare’s 802 workers had been precluded from work because they had been infected or exposed to COVID-19.

It was reported that all nine are vaccinated.

The information wasn’t available on Wednesday for a story published Thursday that reported 127 staff members at Olympic Medical Center being precluded from work due to contracting or being exposed to the virus.

Forks Community Hospital on Wednesday had seven of its 310 employees out because of COVID restrictions, according to CEO Heidi Anderson.

Children and vaccines

In Clallam and Jefferson counties, most of the children who have been hospitalized with COVID are too young to be vaccinated, since they are younger than 5.

“Due to their developing immune systems, these are the kids (younger than 5) that, when they catch COVID-19, are more likely to have more severe infections,” Berry said.

Vaccine hesitancy may play a role in some of the hospitalizations of older children, Berry said.

“Lot of hesitancy by parents about getting that age group vaccinated as well, though that may change as this variant continues to surge,” Berry said.

According to the CDC, 14 percent of children 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, whereas 53 percent of children 12 to 17 are vaccinated.

No vaccine is available for children younger than 5, although one is expected to be approved in the first part of 2022.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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