‘No child is completely safe from this’: Doctor shares urgent warning as COVID-19 cases increase

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An urgent warning from doctors to parents about the increase in child COVID-19 cases across the Mid-South.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare reported a record number of hospitalized COVID-positive patients in its hospital system Wednesday.

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“Today, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare reached another tragic milestone with a record high 322 hospitalized COVID positive patients under our care, compared to 315 just a day ago,” the hospital said.

The hospital system reported its largest increase at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Doctors expect to see more cases as the school year progresses, especially if masks become optional.

FOX13 has learned children are waiting hours to get a bed at Le Bonheur.

“We are supposed to be protecting the most vulnerable among us, not throwing them to the wolves,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “And I feel like they are being thrown to the wolves a bit, unfortunately.”

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During the first week of August, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital treated four COVID-19 patients. Now, that number is about 7 times higher.

Dr. Arnold says it’s concerning because these children are very ill.

“These children are sick,” she said. “They are getting sicker faster and staying sicker longer.”

Dr. Arnold said the patients are all unvaccinated, and most of them suffer from underlying conditions like asthma, obesity, or cerebral palsy. She said the majority of those patients are ages 10 and up.

At the same time, she emphasized children without health problems can still get quite sick.

“No child is completely safe from this, and anybody who is just banking on these poor, vulnerable children being sick, the ones who can least handle this, are going to be surprised,” Dr. Arnold said.

RELATED: Children continue to be hit hard by virus surge in Tennessee

Dr. Arnold says even children with asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID-19 can end up in the hospital weeks later with multi-system inflammatory syndrome. This creates inflammation in the organs and can even cause comas.

At the end of the day, Dr. Arnold says children need to get vaccinated and mask up.

“We have young people who are working incredibly hard to keep these children alive and get them out of the hospital, and the same thing in the adult hospitals and they are feeling betrayed by the general community because people are not helping to end this thing,” she said.

Dr. Arnold says she is also seeing a huge outbreak of RSV, which is a lung infection. She said it’s unusual to see an outbreak in August because she usually sees the cases in the winter.