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Cook Children's Sees The Most COVID-19 Cases Since The Beginning Of The Pandemic

The sign outside Cook Children's Medical Center.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA
Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

A pandemic surge in North Texas is driving an increase in cases among children, doctors at Cook Children's say. The hospital has once again restricted the number of visitors a patient can have.

Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth is seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases per day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 14 children currently hospitalized with the disease — the most to date.

The hospital keeps track of COVID-19 tests at its main medical center, as well as at primary and urgent care clinics. One of the main metrics it uses is the proportion of all tests that end up positive. On Friday, the seven-day average of positive tests was 10.6%, up from an average of 5% in recent months.

“That’s not inconsequential,” said Dr. Nicholas Rister, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cook Children’s. “We do a lot of testing, so that’s reflecting quite a bit of disease.”

He said Cook Children’s doesn’t come close to catching all of the cases in the community.

“This just reflects the portion we see and are able to get a hold of,” he said.

Rister blames the increase in cases on climbing COVID numbers in the community at large.

He said while there is definitely spread within schools, he doesn’t see the return to in-person classes as the main problem. Though, Rister emphasizes there isn’t firm data yet.

“There’s school adjacent things. There’s sports, there’s school events, there’s friends getting together, there’s birthday parties, there’s gatherings,” he said. “Those are probably the bigger drivers, especially when you have groups of people outside the classroom.”

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has encouraged schools to stop holding sporting events. Tarrant County broke its single-day case record on Saturday, and then Monday’s numbers surpassed it.

As a result, Cook Children’s has once again limited the number of visitors a patient can have. Starting November 16, only one primary caregiver can visit a child in the hospital. No siblings or other visitors are allowed.

The same policy was in place from March to October 1, when the hospital loosened restrictions to allow two caregivers to visit.

Back then, it seemed like the pandemic was easing a bit, said Dr. Mary Whitworth, the medical director for infectious diseases at Cook Children’s. Now, they need to tighten up again to protect patients and healthcare workers from exposure.

“It’s terrible to reach this decision because we’re all parents. We are doing our best in a really difficult time to try to keep everybody safe,” she said.

While children don’t seem to get as sick as adults when they catch COVID, Whitworth said that throughout the pandemic, Cook Children's has seen severe cases that require intensive care and ventilators.

Cook Children's has not seen any deaths from COVID-19.

Whitworth added that they have also not seen any deaths from its 21 reported cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.

MIS-C is still mysterious to doctors. It’s a rare disease that sometimes follows a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in kids.

MIS-C is similar to another, more well-known pediatric illness called Kawasaki disease. MIS-C can cause inflammation in various organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms can include rash, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and belly pain.

Texas Tech Public Radio reported on Wednesday that a child under 10-years-old in the Lubbock area died due to MIS-C this week.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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