Local hospitals gearing up for possible surge of pediatric COVID-19 patients

NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island (WABC) -- Officials in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center are gearing up for a possible surge in pediatric patients, as more children with COVID-19 begin to trickle in.

Dr. James Schneider, the Chief of Cohen's Pediatric ICU, said the hospital is receiving one to two new pediatric COVID patients every day.

As of Thursday, the hospital had four pediatric COVID patients, one of whom is in the ICU.

"We never have a more than handful in the hospital at any one time, but it's been a while since we've had zero patients," Dr. Schneider told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne.

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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, new cases of COVID in children across the country almost doubled from July 22 to July 29, going from 38,654 new cases to 71,726.

By comparison, the week of June 24 only had 8,447 new cases.

"At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children," the Academy wrote. "However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects."

Dr. Schneider said the patients he is seeing do not have symptoms that are more severe than what physicians saw last summer, which was the last time there was a surge in pediatric patients.

He also said the hospital has not yet seen children suffering from MIS-C, the inflammatory syndrome that some pediatric patients get as a result of a COVID infection. He said he believes that will be coming next.

Dr. Schneider said the best way parents can protect their children is by getting them the vaccine, if they are age eligible.

"Even a child who had a mild illness, maybe a couple days of fever, a little headache, a little lethargy, that may last for weeks or even months," he said. "Even previously healthy kids who are athletic and take good care of themselves, they can be debilitated for weeks to months, and you just don't want that for your child."

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Dr. Schneider said some children who are infected with the coronavirus develop debilitating health issues similar to adult "long haulers."

Eyewitness News checked with several Long Island health systems about their current number of pediatric patients.

NYU Langone Long Island said it had one pediatric patient, Stony Brook University Hospital said it had two patients, and the Catholic Health network of hospitals would not provide data on its pediatric cases.

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