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COVID-19 cases hit highest mark at Akron Children's Hospital

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 07, 2022

AKRON, Ohio — Akron Children's Hospital saw the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations this week nearly two years after the pandemic invaded Northeast Ohio.

On Thursday, the hospital reported 39 kids were being treated for either the virus or MIS-C, a post COVID inflammatory syndrome, at the main campus in Akron and the Mahoning Valley Campus.

On Friday, the number of hospitalizations dropped to 28, but the spike remained concerning to Dr. Michael Bigham, a pediatric ICU physician at ACH.

"Every single day, we're seeing patients in the ICU requiring breathing tubes and breathing machines with COVID-19, requiring blood pressure support. Some are even requiring heart-lung bypass," Dr. Bigham said.

Hospitalizations jumped from single digits to the 18-20 mark when the delta variant appeared, but omicron appears to behave differently in kids, which may be driving up the number of children in the hospital, Bigham said.

"I think we should expect to see an increase in an ongoing rate of hospitalizations in children with omicron variant that is very different than the other variants," he said.

Dr. Bigham stressed the importance of new CDC guidance this week, which among other things, recommended that children between the ages of 12 and 15 get a booster five months after their Pfizer shots.

"Vaccines matter," he said. "There are more children that are unvaccinated and that's absolutely the majority of the patients that we're seeing in the hospital, those unvaccinated children and some that are too young to be vaccinated. It's really, really protective— those vaccines— for preventing hospitalizations and in kids particularly."

Donna Skoda, commissioner of Summit County Public Health, said the rise in coronavirus cases among kids mirrors what's happening in the community as a whole.

The county has seen between 1,000 and 1,300 positive cases daily for about the last two weeks, Skoda said.

"We've never had that before and I know that all our hospitals, we've reached record levels," Skoda told News 5.

With that in mind, 3,400 COVID-19 home testing kits will be handed out at Summit County Public Health, 867 W Market St., Akron, on Saturday, Jan. 8 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The kits, which have been very difficult to find in the area, will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, and one per person.

"If you need four for your family, four people need to be in the car to get them. It's one per actual physical body," Skoda said.