A local hospital is asking everyone to think of the children as COVID-19 becomes more dangerous than ever.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and several dozen pediatric healthcare facilities throughout the United States are joining forces this week to champion coronavirus protocols that could help protect children from contracting or succumbing to the virus.
Michael Fisher, CEO of Cincinnati Children's, signed an open letter that was published as a full-page advertisement in the Aug. 29 edition of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. In it, Fisher and nearly 70 other children's hospital leaders urged robust COVID-19 precautions as infections from the virus rise among younger people, particularly due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
"Tragically, rising numbers of COVID-19 infections among children, surging cases of respiratory illnesses such as RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] and the pandemic's ongoing impact on mental health are pushing our children's hospitals to capacity," Fisher and the others wrote. "Combined with significant hospital workforce shortages, the pediatric safety net for all children is being threatened in unprecedented ways."
The healthcare leaders — including leaders from hospitals in Columbus and Cleveland — then said that everyone eligible should be vaccinated against COVID-19, wear a mask — especially within schools or large gatherings — and continue to wash hands and keep physical distance from others.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer are available to people ages 12 years and up, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines can be administered to those ages 18 and older. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted full approval to Pfizer's vaccine for usage in adults, while the other vaccines remain under emergency use authorization until their expected FDA approval later this year.
Fisher's joint call for COVID-19 help continues his collaboration with healthcare leaders. In early August, Fisher and officials from six major hospital networks in Greater Cincinnati announced that they would require all employees, providers, contractors and volunteers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by this fall.
"Requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for all of our healthcare providers and staff is the responsible thing to do, not only to protect our patients, their families and our workforce but also our community as a whole and especially, certainly from my perspective, kids who aren't yet eligible for vaccinations," Fisher said at the time.
This wasn't the only action for Children's Hospital Association leaders in recent days. On Aug. 27, Children's Hospital Association CEO Mark Wietecha penned an opinion piece for USA Today about how pediatric care has been affected, plus Wietecha wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden urging that relief funding for healthcare providers be distributed quickly, a release from CHA said.
"As a nation, our federal government has the power and authority to ensure our children's health system is not upended, and the pediatric safety net is strengthened, not further strained," Wietecha wrote in USA Today.
"Our children's health care safety net is under unprecedented strain. Children's hospitals and their dedicated staffs are doing their part, and we hope every American, the White House and Congress can help,” Wietecha also said in a release. "Given the situation on the ground, we are reaching out to draw further attention to the challenges we face that affect our kids. Our children's hospitals provide care to all children who need it, and with support directed to pediatric capacity, they can continue to meet that commitment."
Ohio and Kentucky both are seeing sustained spikes in COVID-19 cases — spikes that the states hadn't seen in many months or even since last year. Last week, Ohio reported a 900% increase in COVID-19 infections over the last month, with the southern border of the state considered a hot spot. Meanwhile, Kentucky had a 26% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over a one-week period, with more than 20% of the Commonwealth's hospitals experiencing staff shortages.
Moreover, children have increasingly gotten the coronavirus, something occurring more frequently with the Delta variant than with the original strain of the virus. COVID-19 infections in children increased 400% over the last month in Kentucky. On the Ohio side, COVID-19 infections among school-age Ohioans jumped by 827% when comparing Ohio Department of Health data from the week of July 4 with the week of Aug. 25.
Cincinnati Public Schools recently proposed a new policy that would require vaccination for all employees within the district. The full CPS Board of Education will discuss the proposal in September.
CPS had been discussing a vaccination mandate for some time, especially as COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant have mounted all summer. The district announced in early August that it would continue to require masking from all employees and students within district buildings.
Health officials have long said that a combination of vaccinations and masking will help slow the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals wear face masks, especially indoors and in regions of great virus transmission or low vaccination (as of Aug. 27, the CDC labels all counties in the Cincinnati area as "high" risk). The federal agency also urged all K-12 schools to require masking for students, employees and visitors, regardless of whether they've received an authorized COVID-19 vaccine or not.
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