HOUSTON -- In a sign that the delta variant is affecting more children on a daily basis, an 11-month-old Texas girl had to be airlifted to a hospital 150 miles away because no local pediatric hospitals would accept her as a transfer patient.
"She needed to be intubated immediately because she was having seizures," said Patricia Darnauer, the administrator for Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston. "We looked at all five major pediatric hospital groups, and none [had beds] available."
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The situation is sad but not surprising for Dr. Christina Propst, who is one of the most outspoken pediatricians in Houston. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Propst has encouraged masking, social distancing and being cautious to anyone who would listen.
"The emergency rooms at the major children's hospitals here in Houston, the largest medical center in the world, are extremely crowded," she said. "They are filling, if not full, as are the hospitals and intensive care units."
Propst and other medical providers say there are a number of reasons for the crunch in pediatric beds. First and foremost, it's clear that the delta variant of COVID-19 is affecting more children, and is more contagious.
In addition, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is also increasing in the area, sending more children to hospitals. This is all taking place during summer break, where doctors are used to seeing more broken bones and other ailments caused by children playing outdoors or at camp.
"We have many patients, many patients every day," said Darnauer. "We are back beyond our pre-pandemic volumes at LBJ."
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So what can worried parents do?
Propst said adults should get the vaccine if possible. Children not old enough to be vaccinated need to wear masks when they are indoors or with groups of people. She would also like to see Texas once again allow public schools to mandate masks.
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"If children are not masking in schools, it will be a major problem," Propst said.
She added that the start of the school year generally causes a lot of germs to spread around even during normal times.
"It is typical that two weeks after school we see a great surge of strep and other sources of infection. We are bracing ourselves -- not a question of when it will be bad," she said.