OMAHA, Neb. — COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the rise once again in Nebraska, and this time the attention is on children. More kids are testing positive in Douglas County and officials say the new variants are to blame.
Initially, COVID was thought to not have a large impact on children. But thanks to new variants like the B.1.1.7 strain from the United Kingdom, that's all.
"There was a 22% increase in cases in March over what we had been seeing in February and 42% of those were among people 19 years of age and younger," Douglas County Health Department spokesperson Phil Rooney said.
Children's Hospital is seeing the secondary results of that higher case count — more hospitalizations.
"We have definitely seen an increase in the last two weeks. We've had several cases in the hospital with ICU care required, for most of them actually," Children's Epidemiologist Dr. Alice Sato said.
The reason more spread is occurring is due to the fact that children aren't getting vaccinated and in turn aren't being protected from the new, more infectious variants.
"The problem I have as a pediatrician is vaccines hasn't been available to my patients," Dr. Sato said.
Studies are currently underway to see how effective vaccines are in children.
"I fully expect that in the relatively near future, we'll be expanding the population that is eligible for vaccination and when that's done I think it's important for kids to get vaccinated," UNMC infectious disease expert Dr. Rupp said.
Dr. Sato said the data looks promising.
"We're still hoping that within a few weeks that perhaps we will be able to offer the vaccine to children 12 and up which would be a start," she said.
Non-pharmaceutical interventions like social distancing and mask-wearing can help stop the spread of COVID-19 among children since a vaccine for anyone under 16 is currently not available in the United States.