COVID-19 hospitalizations rising at Children’s Wisconsin, officials say

MILWAUKEE — More and more children are being hospitalized with COVID-19, Children’s Wisconsin officials said Wednesday.

The hospital saw about 20 positive cases among children this week, up from 15 the week before.

“We’re not seeing kids that are as affected as severely as commonly,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Gutzeit said. “But we also want to make sure that we’re aware that there are some kids that do get quite sick.”

While cases may be rising, Gutzeit said the effects of variants like omicron and delta have not been as pronounced.

“Thankfully, all the variants to date have not physically affected kids’ health, physical health as much as it has adults,” Gutzeit said. “That being said, we recognize the adult systems are stressed because of the illness and the surge.”

Gutzeit said there is a need to focus on the behavioral, emotional, and social effects of the pandemic. Reading and math levels have declined, and anxiety and depression levels are up among children.

“We need to consider these data points when we think about the bigger decisions.”

One solution he raised was keeping children in school whenever possible.

“There have been challenges to that and we want to make sure we’re clear about that” Gutzeit said. “We need to do everything we can to keep kids safe and healthy.”

He said in-person learning is optimal and impacts reading and math scores.

“I know there are decisions being made right now about virtual, returning to virtual settings and things like that,” Gutzeit said. “My suggestion would be that schools really work with their local health departments whenever possible.”

Gutzeit expressed concern that vaccination rates are low among young children. Currently, only 15.5% of Wisconsin children aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated.

Part of the low number could be due to hesitation from parents, Gutzeit said.

“Please, seek out information from a trusted source and I usually say start with your primary care provider. That individual should be somebody who can provide you with the best information about the science behind the vaccine and the safety of the vaccine.”