The number of children being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama continues to set new records, prompting the Alabama Department of Public Health on Friday to urge parents to get their children vaccinated and for face masks in schools.
The state on Monday set a new record for the number of children hospitalized with COVID, at 97, after several days of record numbers, according to the Alabama Hospital Association’s tracking. Of those hospitalized, 15 children were in ICUs and four were on ventilators.
“Hospitalizations of children in Alabama due to COVID-19 are at a record high, and immediate measures need to be taken to reduce COVID-19 in the pediatric population,” the Alabama Department of Public Health said in a Friday statement. “The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Alabama Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), urge parents to minimize their children’s exposure to COVID-19 in schools and public places, wear well-fitting masks in schools, and get vaccinated if they are eligible.”
The department noted Alabama’s dismal vaccination rate among children. Just 10.4 percent of Alabama children aged 5 to 11 have begun initial vaccination for COVID. Among kids aged 12-17 just 35.6 percent have received an initial dose.
“Right now, children five through 11 in Alabama, nine out of 10 of them are not vaccinated. That needs to change if we’re going to try to get to the other side of this,” Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said during a briefing on Thursday.
New COVID cases have been skyrocketing in public schools as well. There were 16,035 new cases in Alabama schools last week, a 445 percent increase from the previous week, according to the department’s K-12 school dashboard.
“In the crisis of higher virus transmission with the Omicron variant, immediate measures are critical,” ADPH district medical officer Dr. Wes Stubblefield said in a statement Friday. “School-wide masking is at the top of the list of preventive steps that need to be implemented. Masks can still make a difference in school settings and allow students to remain in class, if properly used.”
Dr. Katrina Skinner, president of the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement Friday that the omicron variant of COVID is extremely contagious and fast-spreading.
“Pediatric hospitalizations are at record high numbers, and we continue to see children with serious complications of COVID-19 infections such as MIS-C,” Skinner said, referring to Multisystem inflammatory syndrome. “Parents should take the current COVID-19 outbreak seriously as it poses a very real threat to the health and well-being of their children. Children depend on their parents to protect them by minimizing their exposure to high-risk settings, to teach good masking practices and other preventive measures, as well as getting them vaccinated if eligible.”
COVID hospitalizations across all ages in Alabama continue to increase, reaching 2,404 on Monday, a 180 percent increase from Jan. 1.
There have been 16,734 confirmed COVID deaths in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Alabama has the third most COVID deaths per capita in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 340 deaths per 100,000 residents. Alabama has the third lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated against COVID in the nation, at 48.4 percent, according to the CDC.