Local children’s hospitals take precautions against Delta variant

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The resurgence of COVID cases is taking a major toll on our local healthcare system.

As kids start heading back to school, some Mid-South doctors fear this is only the beginning.

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Doctors say the Delta variant appears to be affecting children differently, and hospitals like Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital are taking precautions.

Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Dr. Nick Hysmith said over the weekend, at least eight children were at the hospital with COVID. He said several of them needed critical care.

“We had patients over the past three and four days who required intubation for COVID,” Dr. Hysmith said. “So we are seeing sick kids here at Le Bonheur.”

Dr. Hysmith said even more children are testing positive for the virus.

“I think if we go into the school season without mask mandates in place, that’s exactly the kind of thing we’re going to see, he said. “We’re going to see kids become infected, and unfortunately we’re going to see some of these kids have a severe illness.”

As a response to the rise in infections, Le Bonheur has made the decision to reopen its COVID wing.

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Dr. Hysmith said the space for COVID patients on their respiratory floor was downsized a few months ago as cases in Shelby County were on the decline.

“In the past, we had that broken down to half of that floor being a cohort for COVID patients, and our other half being for our common respiratory illnesses we see throughout the year,” he said.

Baptist Children’s Hospital is taking similar precautions.

Dr. Jennifer Snow said they’re prepared to open up more space and ramp up staffing if needed.

On top of COVID admissions, she said the hospital is juggling an increase in other respiratory illnesses, like RSV.

“If we have more patients with COVID, we just have a much higher load of patients in the hospital in general,” he said.

But children aren’t the only ones getting sick.

As of Monday, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare is reporting 192 patients in the hospital across all its locations. Just a week ago, 106 patients were in the hospital.

The numbers are frustrating for doctors like Cassandra Howard who say most of these cases could have been prevented.

“It’s overwhelming when you look at the degree of suffering we have occurring in our community, knowing we could have prevented it by more getting vaccinated,” she said.

All three doctors said if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, now is the time to do so.

Right now, only the Pfizer vaccine is available to children 12 and up.