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US cases hit another record; pediatric infections up 50% in December — 5 COVID-19 updates

30 Dec 2021 12:35 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

The U.S. reported nearly 489,000 new COVID-19 cases Dec. 29, nearly twice as high as the worst days from last winter's surge, according to The New York Times database. The new cases brought the seven-day average for new daily cases to more than 301,000, another record. [Becker's Hospital Review 12.30.2021]

While the omicron and delta variants have increased cases substantially, hospitalizations and deaths remain far below levels during last year's winter surge, before vaccines were widely available.  

During a Dec. 29 COVID-19 briefing at the White House, Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC director, said the seven-day average of hospitalization admissions is about 9,000 per day, about 14 percent higher from the previous week. The seven-day average of daily deaths are about 1,100, a decrease of about 7 percent over the last week. The "comparatively low" hospitalizations and deaths may be due to the fact that hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks "but may also be due to early indications that we’ve seen from other countries like South Africa and United Kingdom of milder disease from omicron, especially among the vaccinated and the boosted," Dr. Walensky said. 

Five more recent updates: 

1. U.S. pediatric hospitalizations are up. An average of 1,200 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 each day last week, up from about 800 at the end of November, according to HHS data cited by The New York Times.

Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows nearly 199,000 cases were reported among children for the week ending Dec. 23, a 50 percent increase over the weekly new cases since the start of the month. New York has been particularly hard hit by the surge in pediatric cases, with hospitalizations more than doubling in the last few weeks from 70 as of Dec. 11 to 184 as of Dec. 23. The rise in admissions has been particularly concentrated in New York City, where hospitalizations among children increased from 22 to 109 across the same period. 

Although more children are being treated for COVID-19, it has more to do with low vaccination rates and the sheer number of kids becoming infected with the highly transmissible delta and omicron variants than a higher risk of disease severity, according to health officials. 

"I think the important story to tell here is that severity is way down and the risk for significant severe disease seems to be lower," David Rubin, MD, physician scientist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Times

Nearly all children who are currently hospitalized and severely ill from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Dec. 30 NewsNation interview. "Virtually all, not 100 percent but close to that, the children who are seriously ill in our hospitals from COVID-19 are children whose parents decided they did not want to vaccinate them," he said. "That is avoidable." 

About 34 percent of Americans ages 5 to 25 were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 28. Children younger than age 5 are not yet eligible for vaccination. 

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