KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Doctors at one metro hospital issue a warning about potential for “the perfect storm.”
Public health leaders are seeing a small uptick in pediatric COVID-19 infections, which, according to doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital, could be tied to Thanksgiving gatherings.
On Friday, a pediatrician told reporters almost all of the current COVID-19 patients at that hospital are unvaccinated.
Now, the reemergence of an old viral enemy – influenza – presents elevated concerns.
Missouri public health officials report that virus is making its way across the Midwest, and it’s been spotted as close as St. Louis.
Flu season barely existed in 2020, since use of masks and social distancing helped curb the virus’ spread. Here in late 2021, those precautions aren’t taken as often anymore. That gives viral infection opportunities to spread.
“We’ve actually had an increase in COVID cases during the Thanksgiving Week,” Dr. Angela Myers, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said.
Myers said low COVID vaccination rates among teenagers, as well as concerns over influenza – have infectious disease experts sounding an early alarm. Myers, as well as her colleagues at the hospital, said public mask mandates and school mask requirements present cause for concern. Many metro school districts have already seen mask rules expire.
“We want kids to be in school everyday. We didn’t have that luxury last year. This year, we have that luxury of being able to keep kids in school and the best way is to keep all the kids masked. we don’t have a critical portion of those – even the oldest kids – being vaccinated at this point,” Myers said.
“If numbers were to increase, and we were to have another increase in patients needing hospital beds, we could be where we were back in August where we are really scrambling and things are really,” Dr. Jennifer Watts, a emergency management specialist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said.
Upcoming holiday gatherings also worry doctors, since many families will have unvaccinated members and pandemic guidelines are often ignored at family get-togethers.
“We’ve had to make some tough decisions even within my own family. It’s hard and I understand how people struggle with this,” Meyers told reporters. “We have to keep the long game in mind, and I know that’s tricky.”
The certain arrival of the omicron variant also presents a worry for doctors. Pediatricians are quick to point out co-infections are possible, and having both “the flu” and coronavirus is a realistic concern. Vaccines are a recommended protections against both infections.