TOPSHOT - Healthcare worker Demetra Ransom comforts a patient in the Covid-19 ward at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas on December 4, 2020. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Covid-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise in the United States for months, with weekly admissions now more than triple what they were two months ago. Seniors have the highest rates of Covid hospitalizations by far, but hospitalizations among children — especially among those younger than 5 — are rising fast.

More than 20,500 people in the US were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 during the week ending September 9, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – about 8% higher than the week before.

“We haven’t really seen this for many months, but we’re starting to see people come into the hospital critically ill,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University. “There needs to be a greater sense of urgency because deaths are rising, hospitalizations are rising.”

On Friday, a White House official acknowledged increased infections and hospital admissions nationally, but noted that levels remain lower than during past Covid surges. The Biden administration is also preparing to ramp up messaging on flu, RSV and Covid vaccines, including for higher-risk populations such as seniors and young children.

“We are tracking upticks in some parts of the country but believe we remain in the strongest position yet as we head into fall,” the White House official told CNN.

Who’s hospitalized now

Nationally, more than half of new Covid-19 hospital admissions were among people age 70 and older, and more than two-thirds are among people age 60 and older, according to the latest CDC data.

But a new analysis of federal data from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed hospital admissions among children are rising faster than average. Nearly 1,200 children were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 during the week ending September 9, marking a five-fold increase over the past three months. Hospitalizations among adults increased about three-fold in that same time period.

Admissions among children remain below previous pandemic peaks. There were about 1,800 new pediatric admissions in a week at the height of last winter’s wave, and more than 6,500 weekly admissions during Omicron, the AAP analysis shows.

Children accounted for 6% of all Covid-19 hospital admissions during the week ending September 9, federal data shows. And children under 5 were the most at risk, with about half of all pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations among those younger than 5, according to the AAP analysis.

“This increase in hospitalizations, especially for the youngest children, is very concerning,” said Dr. Sandy L. Chung, president of the AAP. “We know this is the age group with the lowest vaccination rates. Right now, we have updated COVID vaccines that can help children’s immune systems learn to detect and resist the virus, including the strain that is circulating now. The virus is still here, and I’d urge parents to talk with their pediatricians about how they can protect their family.”

Vaccination rates have consistently lagged for children. In May, when the public health emergency ended, less than 1% of children under 5 had received the bivalent booster and less than 10% of children ages 5 to 17 had received it, data from the CDC shows.