COVID-19 Cases Spike Among Children Ahead of Fourth of July Weekend
The number of local children with COVID-19 is increasing at a dramatic rate, with cases more than doubling in the past two weeks at Cook Children’s. Since March, more than 6,300 kids have been tested for the novel coronavirus at Cook Children’s and 286 were positive. The troubling part is that more half of these positive cases were tested in the past week and a half. Forty eight were in the past 24 hours.
“What we are noticing is that the number of cases is ballooning over a short period of time,” said Nicholas Rister, M.D., pediatric infectious diseases physician at Cook Children’s Medical Center.
This rapid increase in COVID-19 cases is causing concern among physicians that we will see the virus spread even further, especially with the Fourth of July weekend ahead of us.
“We understood that as we re-opened Texas we would see more cases,” said Dr. Rister. “I think these numbers show that this disease spreads among all people, and that includes children.”
Ninety percent of the positive cases at Cook Children’s have been among symptomatic children. The most common signs parents should be aware of are cough, fever, mild respiratory symptoms, rash and stomach pain. More severe symptoms may require hospitalization and can progress to respiratory failure but thankfully remain uncommon in children.
At this time, the number of infected children needing hospitalization remains low, with six patients currently being treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center. But Dr. Rister says while the majority of children are able to recover on their own, some will need oxygen support and even a ventilator.
“It’s rare for a child to become so ill they need a ventilator because of the virus, but we have seen it and it’s something we want to prevent,” he said.
The ages of COVID-19 patients span from infants to 20 year olds, with no real concentration on one age group over another.
“It’s tough to say where someone gets the virus from, but big events with lots of people are a common way transmission occurs,” Dr. Rister explained. “We have seen children who we believe became infected at youth sporting events and summer camps.”
Dr. Rister says it’s important to limit your child’s exposure to large groups as much as possible, and always try to wear a mask, maintain social distance and wash your hands as much as possible.
“We know it’s hard to say all children should wear a mask, but as much as you can, it’s going to make a difference,” he said. “Every day we hear about COVID numbers on the news, but most families haven’t seen it despite how common it is. I think it’s important to remind people that the boogie man is real, this thing is out there and the precautions you are taking are very important.”
As for the Fourth of July, Dr. Rister hopes families will still find a way to celebrate while taking into consideration the risk for contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
“The question to ask yourself is ‘how many people are you going to be around and how exposed will you be?’. If you can effectively social distance, wear a mask and you’re in a smaller group, then I think those are very reasonable things to think about doing,” Dr. Rister said. “The larger group activities like being around big groups of people at pools, large cookouts, sporting events, large fireworks displays where you are close to other people; those events are what we’re worried about.”
For families trying to decide how many people to invite for Fourth of July gatherings, consider whose most at risk. If you have elderly grandparents or people who are ill, Dr. Rister advises you to be cautious.
“We’re not saying you can’t have a celebration, but we do think you need to have a real honest talk about how you can limit risks.”
Get to know Nicholas Rister, M.D.
Nicholas Rister, M.D. is a board certified infectious diseases physician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He treats the following conditions: central nervous system infections/meningitis/encephalitis, chronic and recurring infections, congenital infections, fevers of unknown origin, hepatitis (including hepatitis B and C), herpes simplex virus, immune deficiency, Kawasaki disease, life-threatening infections, lymphadenitis, Meningococcal disease, osteomyelitis and septic arthritis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, travel-related illness, viral infections (including herpes and cytomegalovirus).
New and existing patients looking to schedule an appointment or consultation with Dr. Rister can call 682-885-1485.