By Dawn Hensil
West Virginia hit a new record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, 1,080, last week and reported six kids on ventilators, the most since the state began reporting child hospitalization data. On Thursday, Jan. 27, 1,080 West Virginians were hospitalized with the virus. On the previous day, Wednesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations hit 1,043, breaking the previous record of 1,012 on Sept. 24.
West Virginia also recently began reporting child hospitalization numbers. On Thursday, 14 kids were hospitalized with the virus, including five on ventilators. Friday, six kids were on ventilators, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The milestone also means many West Virginia hospitals have exceeded inpatient occupancy capacity. The West Virginia Hospital Association sends the state’s pandemic leadership team a daily report of hospitalizations. According to records supplied (Hospital Covid Report 5Jan_Redacted) following several months of seeking the data under the Freedom of Information Act, at least 22 of 54 hospitals, were already at more than 90 percent inpatient occupation rates as of early January, when there were 744 people hospitalized with COVID. Ruby Memorial reported a 99 percent inpatient occupancy rate on Jan. 5, while United Hospital Center reported 83 percent.
Dr. Kathryn S. Moffett, pediatric infectious disease specialist at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital in Morgantown, said that since the Delta variant emerged in the summer, WVU has seen on average one to two severely ill kids in their ICU or pediatric intensive care unit at a time.
One three-year-old with an underlying condition was ill for nearly a month, she said, while other severe cases have mainly been among older kids who are obese.
She also said they are seeing some kids come in with other problems and get diagnosed with COVID-19 as part of routine testing.
With the newest strand of covid, doctors are seeing more of an upper respiratory infection as opposed to previous variants.
She said most children seem to recover well from this virus, and Omicron variant symptoms may include fever and gastrointestinal distress.
Moffet went on to stress the importance of vaccinations and boosters to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections. It is possible to still contract the disease even after vaccinations and boosters, but the data seems to show that those individuals that contract the virus after receiving a vaccination or booster seem to recover faster and have less severe infections.
“If you’re five and over, you absolutely need to be vaccinated and if you’re 12 and over you can be boosted,” Moffett said.
All but one of the kids admitted to WVU’s pediatric ICU had not been fully vaccinated.
“And that’s frustrating for us as care providers because they still may have gotten COVID,” Moffett said. “They may have had the Delta variant. They may have had Omicron, but they probably would not have even ended up in the hospital.”
She also referenced a CDC study that found an unvaccinated person is five times more likely to become re-infected than a person who is immunized.
Erin Beck contributed to this report.