Michigan sees sharp increase in children hospitalized with COVID-19 this year

B.1.1.7 (U.K) variant is spreading faster among children and adults, health experts say

Child wearing mask (August de Richelieu/Pexels stock image)

Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization rates increased 311% between Feb. 19 and April 20, 2021 in Michigan.

That’s according to data from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA). The data shows that the number of children hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms hit a high of 70 this week.

That number is twice as many as were hospitalized during the last surge in November 2020. As of Thursday, April 22, the number of hospitalized pediatric patients in Michigan confirmed to have COVID-19 was 52, a slight decrease, per the state’s data.

Michigan has been dealing with the B.1.1.7 (U.K) variant of the virus. Public health officials are trying to understand how the variant is linked to the increase in pediatric hospitalizations in the state.

“We should definitely be worried about it,” said Dr. Kengo Inagaki, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in an interview with NBC. “We still have to be careful. We have to adhere to distancing and wearing masks and avoiding gatherings because that’s the best way of preventing COVID, regardless of the strain.”

Last week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) expanded mask requirements to include children ages 2-4 years old. The order runs through May 24.

With the push for an emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15, MHA said it will will work with the Michigan Association of Family Physicians and the Michigan Chapter of the American Association of Pediatrics to coordinate messaging and resources for health systems and doctors.

Read more: In Michigan, a record-breaking number of children have been hospitalized with Covid

Michigan school districts struggle over decision to go remote

There has been a tug-of-war emerging between school boards and educators over which decision is best for kids. Last week, the Board of Education for the Novi Community School District shared data showing COVID cases going up inside school buildings, showing the same number of cases per school in the last three months.

One hundred eleven (111) students were quarantine and 25 students had confirmed COVID cases and four teachers, too.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews did what many superintendents are doing: crunching the numbers, doing the math and making recommendations.

“We have about 2% of our students at the high school who are in person who have tested positive recently and we have about 5% of those students who are coming back to the high school who are in quarantine,” Matthews said. “My first recommendation was to move our kids back to hybrid. I felt that that was a good recommendation because it would give us an opportunity to spread kids out a little more, to make sure that we had that social distance. That’s where we’re getting in trouble.”

COVID in Michigan: The latest

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan has risen to 809,591 as of Thursday, including 17,139 deaths, state officials report.

Thursday’s update includes a total of 4,867 new cases and 108 additional deaths, of which 75 deaths are from a vital records review. On Wednesday, the state reported 804,724 total cases and 17,031 deaths.

Testing has been steady around 35,000 diagnostic tests reported per day on average, with the 7-day positive rate above 13% as of Tuesday, lower than one week ago. Hospitalizations have increased over the last several weeks, now at the highest point of the pandemic.

Michigan continues to lead the nation in new COVID-19 cases. The state’s 7-day moving average for daily cases was 5,744 on Wednesday -- the highest since December, but lower than two weeks ago. The 7-day death average was 56 on Wednesday, slightly higher than the last two weeks. The state’s fatality rate is 2.1%. The state also reports “active cases,” which were listed at 184,000 on Wednesday. More than 603,000 have recovered in Michigan.

Michigan has reported more than 6.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered as of Thursday, with 46% of residents having received at least one dose.