By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
NEW YORK (LBM)- -During a broadcast interview, Dec. 29, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, addressed the troubling number of children who have been hospitalized during the recent spike associated with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Fauci, who has served under seven presidents as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned MSNBC host Ayman Mohyeldin that there were two factors contributing to the rising numbers among children.
“Quantitatively, you’re having so many more people, including children, who are getting infected,” Fauci said. Additionally, hospitals are “overcounting the number of children who are hospitalized ‘with COVID’ as opposed to ‘because of COVID.’”
On his first point, Fauci explained that “hospitalization among children is much, much lower on a percentage basis than hospitalizations for adults, particularly elderly individuals.” But he offered that with such a large volume of infections among children, “even with a low level of rate of infection, you’re going to still see a lot more children who get hospitalized.”
Following up on his second point, Fauci offered that “if a child goes in the hospital, they automatically get tested for COVID, and they get counted as a COVID-hospitalized individual when in fact they may go in for a broken leg or appendicitis or something like that.”
Fauci’s concerns about the skewed numbers are valid, based on state and national data for deaths caused by COVID-19 and its variants. In the United States, for 2020 and 2021, combined, there were 678 coronavirus-related deaths among children (0-17 years old). This compares to 66,234 deaths from all causes for that age group, meaning COVID-19 was the cause of 1 percent of all deaths among children for the two-year period. There are 73 million children in the nation.
Meanwhile, for all age groups combined there were 814,806 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
In Louisiana, during the 22-month pandemic, 18 children have died from COVID-19 complications, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (compared to 15,001 COVID-19 deaths for all ages combined). Nearly 1.09 million children live in Louisiana.
Two governors of large states also have expressed concerns about overcounting the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and are taking action to get a more reliable count for all age groups to help understand the actual impact the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced Jan. 3 her plans to reduce uncertainty about COVID-19 data for her state.
“We don’t have clear data right now,” she said, adding that she had conducted random calls to hospitals to confirm her suspicions about overcounting of COVID-19 patients. “Beginning tomorrow, we’re going to be asking all hospitals to break out for us how many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms [and] how many people … happen to be testing positive, just while they’re in there for other treatments.”
Meanwhile, the same day, Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R) lauded the Jackson Health System in Miami for their precision in recording patient COVID-19 data and urged all hospitals to do likewise. He said the facility took care to differentiate between patients who are admitted because of the pandemic and others who might happen to test positive while there for other reasons, noting that “about half of their COVID-positive patients within their system were not being treated for COVID.”
“Looking to see who is being admitted ‘for’ COVID versus who may be admitted ‘with’ COVID is going to be important to really chart the severity of what we’re seeing,” DeSantis said.