Cook Children’s Holds State of the System News Conference Regarding COVID-19 and Children
On Wednesday, four Cook Children’s experts, who have been on the frontlines for the last 18 months, addressed journalists regarding the state of Cook Children’s Health Care System.
They shared how Cook Children’s is currently being impacted by a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases, Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services, Kara Starnes, D.O., medical director of Urgent Care Services, and Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O., pediatrician at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Haslet have all worked tirelessly to ensure our patients and families are receiving the best care throughout the pandemic.
During the news conference, the experts addressed what they are seeing in our urgent care locations, emergency department, and Cook Children’s system as a whole.
“We need compassion from the community and this is an illness affecting our children,” Dr. Starnes said. “We are hitting crisis mode and we can’t do it without your help.”
Cook Children's Urgent Care facilities are being stretched thin. Over the weekend, Cook Children’s was forced to close its Hurst location due to a lack of staff members and high demand for services.
"This is the first time we’ve had to take such measures. We closed in an effort to consolidate staff and safely take care of our patients,” Dr. Starnes explained.
On Monday, the six remaining urgent care locations saw 1,400 children. This is twice the number of patients the urgent care centers typically see.
Dr. Starnes stressed that if you believe your child has been exposed to COVID-19, it is best to find a local testing site in the community or use an at-home testing kit. You can find a list of local COVID-19 testing locations here.
Cook Children’s Emergency Department (ED) is experiencing patient volumes not seen since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. On Monday, the ED saw 601 patients with patients arriving every 2.5 minutes.
“We are breaking records we don’t like to break,” Dr. Warmink said. “I have been at Cook Children’s for 18 years and this is the worst it’s ever been.”
We encourage all families to come to the emergency room for emergencies but ask that they do not come for a simple COVID-19 test. This pulls resources away from critically ill and injured patients and takes up already limited bed space. Along with COVID-19, we are still seeing RSV cases but thankfully, they appear to be on a downswing.
“The adults in the room need to step up and do the right thing,” Dr. Warmink said. “If you send your kid to school without a mask, it’s not if they are going to get sick, it’s when.”
Dr. Warmink advises all parents, “Ask yourself if this can wait” before bringing their child into the emergency department.
Most children have mild illness with COVID-19, but that is not the case for everyone. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Cook Children's has hospitalized 1,129 children with COVID-19, with 241 of those admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Throughout the pandemic, seven children with COVID-19 have died. Two died this past week. They were a 4 year old and a 15 year old.
"We are seeing more severe illness than we have seen at any point during the pandemic. The January surge was nothing compared to what we’re seeing now,” Dr. Whitworth said.
As a result, on Monday, Cook Children’s opened up a third COVID-19 unit for the first time since the start of the pandemic. This unit has nine beds – and within the first 24 hours of being open, was completely full.
With Labor Day weekend ahead of us, Dr. Whitworth encourages everyone to be safe, mask up, and socially distance, as we cannot handle another influx at this time.
“Every child that has the virus inside of them has the potential to spread it to someone else, and they don’t mean to,” Dr. Whitworth said. “Much of what we are seeing is 100% preventable, children have to wear a mask.”
Cook Children's also set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday with 35 patients. This is the highest number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at the medical center at any point in the pandemic. The COVID-19 ICU was also filled.
What can the community do to help?
All four experts we heard from on Wednesday have a few simple pleas:
- Get vaccinated and get your child vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Please have your children wear a mask to school.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Re-think gatherings – if you gather, wear masks, stay socially distant and gather outdoors if possible.
Across the board, Cook Children's is seeing record numbers of families each day who are wanting rapid COVID-19 tests for their children.
"We understand this is a scary time, but want to remind families not to panic if your child was exposed to COVID-19," Dr. Starnes said. "We understand schools have requirements, but we need you to understand we do not want you to panic or rush in to be seen immediately after an exposure. Rushing to our urgent care locations puts a strain on our resources.”
The best thing you can do if your child was exposed is find a local testing-only site in the community or use an at an at-home testing kit.
Cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea are all common symptoms of COVID.
For children over the age of 3 months, these symptoms can typically be managed at home with symptomatic care. Medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with fever and pain. You should encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and it is ok if they do not have much of an appetite.
Parents should seek care for their child over 3 months of age if they have had 5 days or more of fever, difficulty breathing, inability to keep fluids down or stay hydrated (no tears or no urination for 8 hours or longer) or if their child is having pain or fever that is not helped by an appropriate dose of fever reducer/pain reliever.
Patients under 3 months of age who are sick should be seen in person and evaluated.
Also, if there is at least one known positive case at home and others are sick, it can be assumed that all have COVID and everyone needs to isolate at home for 10 days from the start of symptoms.
“We cannot magically create hospital beds at the drop of a hat,” Dr. Whitworth said. “Wear a mask no matter if you’re vaccinated or not, wearing a mask is not an option.”