Pediatric ICU beds over 70 percent full in Tennessee, data shows

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Data shows more than 70 percent of regular pediatric and ICU beds are filled with COVID-19 patients state-wide in Tennessee.

As students return to school, Memphis doctors are begging parents to make their children wear masks in school.

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The Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said there are 36 children in the hospital between the ages 10 to 13.

He emphasizes children can still become really sick with COVID-19 despite having strong immune systems.

“It looks like Memphis and the surrounding areas are bearing a lot of the brunt of these severe pediatric cases,” said Dr. Nick Hysmith with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Hysmith is the Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

He said of the 36 children with COVID-19 in the hospital 6 are in the ICU, and 2 are on ventilators.

Dr. Hysmith said some children have underlying conditions like asthma while others don’t.

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“Those kids come in with their asthma and their exacerbation, and if those kids have COVID-19, it progresses a little more quickly than we’ve seen with our patients,” said Dr. Hysmith.

Meanwhile, state data shows 73 percent of regular pediatric and 76 percent of pediatric ICU beds are occupied.

Dr. Hysmith is worried this number could increase especially since Gov. Lee’s executive order allows children to opt-out of school mask mandates.

Gov. Lee argues requiring parents to make their children wear masks to solve an adult problem is the wrong approach.

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“We have so many kids in intensive care units across the state, so many kids being admitted across the state, I don’t think you can ignore that it’s definitely a pediatric problem as well,” said Dr. Hysmith.

Dr. Hysmith emphasizes children can also spread the virus to older, more vulnerable adults. He said the science doesn’t lie; masks and vaccinations work.

“It’s discouraging. I hate we are in a situation that this has been so political. I think we have evidence that this is affecting children, and that’s been the case for a while now,” said Dr. Hysmith.

Dr. Hysmith said children can also suffer from multi-system inflammatory syndrome two weeks after getting sick with COVID-19.

He said this causes inflammation and their blood pressure drop.