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More children are being hospitalized with Covid-19 as health systems struggle to cope with a surge in new patients and officials race to expand vaccine protection.
The seven-day average number of children reported hospitalized with Covid-19 jumped almost 30% to a new peak of 239 in the week ending August 9. That number is up from the 184 children reported the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Evaluating vaccines for children under 12 is now a top priority for the US Food and Drug Administration, and it is possible that doses could become available to them by the end of the year.
“Make no mistake, the FDA will move quickly on this because they recognize what’s at stake. It’s the health of our children, and there’s really nothing more important than that,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
The urgency to get more of the population protected by vaccines is growing, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, who noted the worrying spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, adults being less cautious about protection – and more children being admitted to hospitals.
“We have the more contagious Delta variant, we have surges and we have so many adults letting down their guard, not wearing masks, not getting vaccinated,” Wen told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
“That’s contributing to this really dangerous environment for children.”
And in the next 48 hours, the FDA is expected to announce it is authorizing a third vaccine dose to help some people who are immunocompromised, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
For people with compromised immune systems, including some cancer patients, those taking medications that suppress the immune system and organ transplant recipients, the two doses of mRNA vaccine or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson may not be enough to develop adequate antibodies, Murthy said.
These people “really never got a good response to begin with,” from their immunizations, so the extra dose is “more of getting them up to what they hopefully had gotten the first time around, but we know because of their immune compromise, they didn’t,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday.
The authorization would apply to less than 3% of adults, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday. The CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices will meet Friday to discuss the authorization, Walensky said.
The new school year already upended
For many students, the new school year has just begun – and the fresh surge in cases is already causing disruption.
School officials in Reno, Nevada, told more than 80 students to quarantine after a child went to middle school two days after a positive coronavirus test.
Washoe County Health District officials said a parent of the child, who goes to Marce Herz Middle School, also tested positive. According to the health district, the parent refused to communicate with health department staff or the school officials.
In Mississippi, more than 4,400 students are quarantining after being exposed to Covid-19 during the week of August 2, according to data from the state’s department of health.
In Lamar County, several schools were forced to switch to virtual learning to combat rising cases. Superintendent Steven Hampton proposed a hybrid schedule during a board meeting on Monday, saying while he believes face-to-face learning is best, a hybrid model would help avoid having all of the schools be virtual.
“Face-to-face learning is the best way for our children to learn but I just don’t feel like it’s safe,” Hampton said.
In Florida’s Palm Beach County, 440 students are quarantined after Covid-19 cases were detected, after just two days of the new school year.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday the state has passed a public health order requiring masks in indoor settings in K-12 schools, according to a news release from his office.
Current prevention guidelines for schools are the “best way” to prevent community transmission in the classroom, Walensky said Thursday.
“(The) best way to keep our schools safe, and we know how to do it, is to vaccinate everyone who can be vaccinated, vaccinate family members of children who cannot yet be vaccinated, and then to follow the mitigation strategies in our school guidance, including masking in schools.”
Understaffed hospitals facing rising patient numbers
Increased protection in the community could also be important in reducing the burden on hospitals across the country.
In Mississippi, more than 1,300 of the nearly 1,500 people hospitalized are unvaccinated, the department of health tweeted Thursday.
There are currently 1,490 people hospitalized with Covid-19, of which 388 are in intensive care and 264 are on ventilators – all three figures are records for the pandemic.
“Hospitals are operating at emergency capacity to cope with the incoming flood of COVID-19 patients,” the health department added.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said that for the first time since February 8, there are more than 100 Covid-19 patients in hospital ICUs across the state.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown said ICU beds are about 90% filled, with some hospitals starting their days with fewer than five available ICU beds.
“Oregon hospitals are facing a crisis that threatens to eclipse the most severe bed shortages they’ve faced at any point in the pandemic,” said Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority.
In Alabama, only 5% of ICU beds are available, Dr. Scott Harris, the state’s health officer, said on Thursday, and at the current rate, “we will surpass our all-time high from back in January in the next three or four days.”
“We need Alabamians to understand we are in a very difficult position right now,” Harris said during a Covid-19 update.
In Mississippi, the University of Mississippi Medical Center reported its highest number of Covid-19 patients ever – while citing problems with finding nursing staff as the “biggest pain point.”
There are some medical, surgical and ICU beds unable to open due to low nursing staff numbers, said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC Vice Chancellor.
Louisiana also has a record number of people hospitalized with Covid-19, the state’s health department tweeted Thursday.
More places to require vaccination proof
An increasing number of Americans will be asked for proof of vaccination when they go to events or work.
San Francisco residents age 12 and older will be required to show proof they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters, as well as large event spaces.
The mandate, announced Thursday by Mayor London Breed, takes effect next Friday and applies to “high contact” indoor public spaces and events with 1,000 or more people.
The move makes San Francisco the first major US city to mandate proof of full vaccinations for some indoor activities. Earlier this month, New York City implemented a similar mandate but allowed for partial vaccination.
“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” Breed said in a statement.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a similar requirement Thursday. The need to show proof of vaccination in some indoor places will begin Monday.
Boston Mayor Kim Janey on Thursday announced that all 18,000 city employees will be required to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or submit weekly testing results.
One of the country’s biggest concert promoters, AEG Presents, announced that by October it will require proof of vaccination for all concertgoers and staff members in clubs, theaters and festivals.
The policy will be “limited only as required by law,” AEG Presents said in a press release.
“We realize that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it’s the right one,” Jay Marciano, CEO of AEG Presents, said in a statement. “We also are aware that there might be some initial pushback, but I’m confident and hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will be on the right side of history and doing what’s best for artists, fans, and live event workers.”
And the music bands Phish and Dead and Company said they will require vaccine proof or negative coronavirus test results at concerts.
Authorities said the recent Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago was not a superspreader event despite hundreds of thousands of attendees.
Officials have identified only 203 cases of Covid-19 about two weeks after the festival, according to Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. Of those, 58 are Chicago residents. Another 138 are Illinois residents and seven are from other states.
Officials believe 90% of attendees were vaccinated, Arwady said, though she said the health department has used a figure of 88%, calling that a “conservative estimate.”
Prior to the festival’s start, event organizers announced they would require proof of full vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result from the last 72 hours to enter.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Kaitlan Collins, John Bonifield, Cheri Mossburg, Naomi Thomas, Rebekah Riess, Amanda Watts, Maria Cartaya, Mallory Simon, Melissa Alonso, Chris Boyette, Hannah Sarisohn and Keith Allen contributed to this report.