Michigan sees 311 percent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in children


Michigan has seen a startling spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations among children amid a general statewide surge — apparently driven by the UK variant of the virus, according to new reports.

Children’s hospitalization rates in the state soared by 311 percent between Feb. 19 and April 20, said John Karasinski, director of communications at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, to NBC News.

“We should definitely be worried,” said Dr. Kengo Inagaki, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, to the network.

Meanwhile, adult hospitalization rates jumped at an even higher rate — by 400 percent — during that two-month span, according to Karasinski.

In terms of kids, this past week alone, the number of children hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms statewide reached 70, or about double the figure at the height of the state’s November wave, NBC reported Thursday.

Data posted to the state health Web site Friday indicated that had dropped to 58.

Michigan's surge in COVID-19 among children has led to 70 being sent to the hospital with severe symptoms this week alone.
Michigan’s surge in COVID-19 among children has led to 70 being sent to the hospital with severe symptoms this week alone.
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The B.1.1.7, or U.K. variant, of the virus appears to be behind the surge, experts say — and they are trying to find out why.

“That’s the burning answer in my mind,” said Dr. Rosemary Olivero, an infectious-disease pediatrician at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“I can’t say that this variant is all of a sudden making children much sicker,” Olivero told the network, adding that it appears the hospitalization spike is simply a result of more children contracting the virus. “But we are experiencing a really severe surge.”

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Clinton High School students cheer on their team during the game between the Ida Bluestreaks and the Clinton Redskins.
Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Kengo Inagaki said the number of children experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is worrisome.
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Grand Rapids has eight children currently being treated for severe COVID-19 symptoms — including five in intensive-care units.

State statistics reveal that Michigan has one of the highest rates of the UK variant — which is 50 to 100 percent more transmissible than other strains of the virus, pediatric nephrologist Dr. Rudolph Valentini told The Detroit Free Press last week.

An emergency room nurse talks with a patient outside the emergency room as a triage unit is set up outside Beaumont Hospital to manage with rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Adults in Michigan have also seen a staggering 400 percent rise in hospitalizations since Feb. 19.
Emily Elconin/Reuters

“That seems to be higher in our state, and so it could very well be that it is contributing to some of the change,” said Valentini, who works at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and also serves as group chief medical officer for the Detroit Medical Center.

Most children hospitalized with the virus are likely to recover “because we have learned a lot during this pandemic on how to manage these kids,” Dr. Bishara Freij, Beaumont Hospital’s chief of pediatric infectious disease at Michigan’s Beaumont Hospital, told NBC.

But infections in children are still a concern, said Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the committee on infectious diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines are delivered to a pop-up clinic at Western International High School on April 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. The state of Michigan has seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases despite a massive effort to roll out vaccines. Pop-up clinics in various communities are one of the ways the state government is trying to get the surge under control.
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan is likely due to the U.K. variant.
Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

“We all know that it’s more severe in older adults, but it’s absolutely not correct to say that it’s benign in other people, and that’s true for kids, too,” he said of the coronavirus.

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