Yes, COVID-19 delta is killing kids, kids who are unvaccinated and in schools with other kids, with governors who are preventing schools from enforcing mask regulations because making a child wear a mask is "child abuse", as opposed to filling their lungs with their own liquefied lung tissue and watching them drown as they spend their final moments on Earth in the ICU of children's hospitals.
As children’s hospitals in many parts of the United States admit more Covid-19 patients, a result of the highly contagious Delta variant, federal and state health officials are grappling with a sharp new concern: children not yet eligible for vaccination in places with substantial viral spread, now at higher risk of being infected than at any other time in the pandemic. Nowhere is that worry greater than in Louisiana, which has among the highest new daily case rates in the country and only 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated, putting children at particular risk as they return to school.
Most children with Covid-19 have only mild symptoms, and there is not enough evidence to conclude that Delta makes some of them sicker than other variants do, scientists say. Doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital agreed with that assessment.
Theresa Sokol, Louisiana’s top epidemiologist, said that people younger than 18 had among the highest test positivity rates in the state and were responsible for a significant share of transmission, with many cases most likely undetected.
“So many days are filled with this puzzle of: We don’t have enough beds for this patient who wants to come, so how are we going to shuffle our children around to accommodate one more?” said Devon H. Relle, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where she worked the front desk of the 17-bed I.C.U. The hospital was also seeing an early, worrisome wave of respiratory syncytial virus, known as R.S.V., which can cause some of the same symptoms and was contributing to the overflow conditions.
The crush of Covid-19 at Children’s Hospital grew so intense this month that the state called in a federal “surge team” of emergency responders from the Department of Health and Human Services’s National Disaster Medical System. The group of about 14 included a physician, a nurse practitioner, nurses, paramedics, a respiratory therapist and a pharmacist.
The team was the first assigned to a children’s hospital during the pandemic.
“Covid-19 right now down here is so endemic that you don’t have to have a specific exposure, because it’s just out there,” said Anne Barylick, a nurse practitioner on the surge team who handled patient intake in the emergency department and Covid-19 units. “Statistically, you’re going to run into it.”
Dr. Mark W. Kline, the hospital’s physician in chief, said that its overcrowded units threatened care for children across the region. It is one of the few advanced children’s hospitals in Louisiana and bordering states, he said, and there are few other options for specialized pediatric care.
Ms. Barylick, who works at a community health center in Rhode Island, was also deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But this deployment was fundamentally different, she said. Instead of helping with a field hospital or pop-up clinic under a tent after a natural disaster, she and her colleagues were woven into the hospital’s normal operations. They rotated with members of the regular nursing staff to triage young patients and greeted them in the emergency room to assess whether they might have Covid-19.
The need here was clear.
“I have never seen our faculty look so tired or sad,” said Dr. Adele K. Evans, who leads the hospital’s tracheostomy team. About 60 members of the medical staff were in quarantine last week. She called it the most difficult moment in the hospital’s history.