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'Parents need to take this really seriously' | What you need to know as COVID cases rise among children

Texas Children's Hospital vice president says pediatric COVID-19 admissions are growing rapidly and the virus doesn't appear any less severe for kids.

HOUSTON — The Houston Independent School District and some other school districts will require students and teachers to wear masks when they return from the holiday break.

At the same time, Texas Children’s Hospital is reporting a sharp increase in pediatric COVID-19 patients admitted to its system's hospitals.

The TCH chief medical officer and vice president said the current strain of the virus does not appear to be any less severe for pediatric patients, who are mostly unvaccinated, than past variants.

“Parents need to take this really seriously,” Dr. Stanley Spinner said.

Spinner said case numbers are rising rapidly.

“We’re not quite at the peak of the hospitalizations we saw from delta, but we’re quickly closing in on it, and I’m afraid that we’ll probably surpass that,” Spinner said.

Spinner said only about 10% of Houston-area 5- to 11-year-olds are vaccinated, and about 50% of adolescents.

He said it leaves them with no protection against the highly contagious omicron variant.

“You’re talking about doubling, tripling, quadrupling the number of kids being hospitalized; that’s something that our parents need to take very seriously,” Spinner said. “Because again, when you talk about any one child, that’s your child that ends up in the hospital, and there’s no bigger nightmare for a parent. And about a third of our kids in the hospital end up in the intensive care unit.”

HISD will continue its mandatory mask policy when classes resume in January.

“HISD will move forward and continue its mask mandate,” HISD Superintendent Millard House said. “We’re doing that to keep our schools and communities safe and have as safe a return as possible.”

Spinner said masks should help, but his best recommendation is to get eligible children vaccinated and to limit their exposure to others.

He warns those who are unvaccinated may end up becoming a target for the virus this New Year’s Eve.

‘If you’re going to have people getting together, and you have children that are unvaccinated, they will be the bullseye for omicron,” Spinner said. “They’re going to be looking out for them and they’re going to get them, and who knows how sick they’re going to get.”

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