Florida tops nation for COVID hospitalizations in children

Hospitalizations from COVID are spiking across the country and the state. One epidemiologist says Florida not only has the most COVID hospitalizations in the country but also has the most COVID hospitalizations for kids in the country. 

It’s not just adults getting sick with COVID.

Dr. Jason Salemi is an epidemiologist who works at the University of South Florida. He says the number of children hospitalized for COVID in Florida is six times what it was just five weeks ago. 

"That puts it in perspective that we’re seeing as many cases in children younger than 12 as we did in the entire state just six weeks ago," Dr. Salemi said. 

Five weeks ago, he says six kids a day were hospitalized for COVID in Florida. Now, we’re averaging 35 kids a day. 

"The numbers just continue to head in a really bad direction," Dr. Salemi said.

Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi sees it in his Winter Park office. 

"When we look at things relative to where we were at any point last year, we’ve far exceeded the number of calls or patients that we’re seeing for COVID-related symptoms," Dr. Ajayi said.

He says he's seeing mostly teenagers who are eligible for the vaccine. That’s why he’s urging children 12 and older to get vaccinated, especially as children head back to school next week. 

For those younger than 12, "If you can get those kids to wear masks, the good news is they still won’t get sick, so it’s not all horrible," he said.

Dr. Ajayi said he has concerns if the numbers continue to rise. 

"We also do not have as much capacity for handling severely ill children as we do adults. I mean, think about Orlando, there are only three hospitals that actually have ICUs that can take care of sick children and the ICU capacity is only so much."

Dr. Ajayi is hopeful younger children will be approved for the vaccine in the fall.