Washington: The number of children hospitalised with COVID-19 in the United States hit a record high of just over 1900, as hospitals across the nation’s south were stretched to capacity fighting outbreaks caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the US population, has caused hospitalisations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of paediatric hospitalisations to 1902 on Saturday (US time), according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Children currently make up about 24 per cent of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalisations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.
“This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most,” Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Paediatrics, told CNN.
The numbers of newly hospitalised COVID-19 patients aged 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 also hit record highs this week, according to data from the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The spike in new cases has ramped up tension between conservative state leaders and local districts over whether school children should be required to wear masks as they head back to the classroom this month.
School districts in Florida, Texas and Arizona have mandated that masks be worn in schools, defying orders from their Republican state governors that ban districts from imposing such rules. The administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funding from districts that impose mask requirements, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott is appealing to the state Supreme Court to overturn Dallas County’s mask mandate, the Dallas Morning News reported on Friday (US time).
A fifth of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalisations are in Florida, where the number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients hit a record 16,100 on Saturday (US time), according to a Reuters tally. More than 90 per cent of the state’s intensive care beds are filled, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.