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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A battle that means fewer healthcare workers are on the job. As of Wednesday, Children’s Mercy has 314 staff members confirmed positive for COVID-19. They’re isolating at home.

“Prior to omicron we had peaked in the 20s. So being in the 30s and being in the 30s consistently is definitely a high number for us,” Dr. Jennifer Watts, Chief Emergency Management Medical Officer at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said.

COVID-19 case counts out of Children’s Mercy hospital highlight the spread of omicron among children, children with cases serious enough to require hospitalized.

As the burden of the caseload grows, Children’s Mercy, like many hospitals in in the Kansas City metro, is struggling with staffing issues.

Now the hospital is trying to recruit healthcare workers who have recently retired and asking them to return. Specifically they are looking for pediatric nurses and respiratory therapists.

“We are seeing an increase in younger children being hospitalized compared to earlier in the pandemic. I think a little over half were under five in this past week,” Dr. Angela Myers, specialist of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said.

In general, those hospitalizations are getting shorter and that’s a good thing.

But the number of kids in the hospital is near record highs.

Doctors say the return of policies required masking is a good thing for schools in the area. They also have a warning to parents who would rather do nothing, perhaps preferring a natural immunity for their children over a vaccine.

“A lot of people throw around natural immunity and they think that natural immunity is always better than vaccine immunity. And that just isn’t true,” Myers said.

“And that is because getting vaccinated primes the different types of cells in your lymph nodes, so the T cells, the B cells, to differentiate and when they differentiate they develop antibodies that are more broadly protective than just against the spike protein,” Myers said.

“Keeping kids from getting infected and keeping them in school is really beneficial for their growth and development. We also know that a portion of kids go on to develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome even after having a mild infection with COVID. And it’s unpredictable who that’s going to occur in. We just have no idea,” Myers said.

Children’s Hospital has continued their policy of requiring 10-day isolation periods for staff testing positive for COVID-19. They say other hospital who have dropped isolation time to five days (per new CDC guidelines) are basing that decision on information collected pre-dating omicron.