An estimated 23 Long Island children ages 4 and younger were hospitalized in the week of the omicron variant's peak, compared with about 5 when delta peaked as the dominant coronavirus strain, according to an analysis of data released by the CDC.
Hospital stays for children were shorter on average during omicron — 1.5 days compared with 2 days during delta — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, released Tuesday. It scrutinized the omicron-dominant week ending Jan. 8, and delta's dominance from June 27 through Dec. 18, 2021. The rate of children requiring intensive care amid omicron was also lower — 21% versus 27%.
Still, while omicron cases were less severe in New York and nationwide, the variant caused hospitalizations at a rate about five times greater than delta, according to the study. In 99 counties across 14 states — where the CDC got the study data — an estimated 14.5 out of 100,000 children ages 4 and younger were hospitalized at omicron's peak, compared with 2.9 out of 100,000 during delta's peak, the week ending Sept. 11, 2021.
What to know
- An estimated 23 Long Island children ages 4 and younger were hospitalized in the week of the omicron variant's peak, compared with about 5 when delta peaked.
- Hospital stays for children were shorter on average nationwide during omicron — 1.5 days compared with 2 days during delta.
- The rate of children requiring intensive care amid omicron was also lower — 27% versus 21%.
For the week ending Feb. 19, 2022, the hospitalization rate was 3.9 per 100,000 for children.
By comparison, there are, on average, two weekly hospitalizations per 100,000 in the 4 and younger age group for pneumonia and three weekly per 100,000 for flu (and 10 times higher during the flu season of late fall into the winter), according to Sean Clouston, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Stony Brook University who studies population health.
The past two years have not been average, as mask mandates and government-imposed shutdowns limited the spread of non-COVID-19 viruses, such as the flu.
COVID-19 is less severe in children — the average hospitalization rate was 4 or 5 per 100,000 across all age groups during delta compared with 8 or 9 per 100,000 during omicron, Clouston said. But omicron led to a greater jump in the rate of hospitalizations for the youngest children, compared with overall, according to Clouston.
That’s because only those 5 and older can be vaccinated, "also because testing is much rarer in children so a positive test is more likely to mean symptoms," he said.
Local hospitalization figures for Long Island can be estimated by applying the ratios given in Tuesday’s CDC study and extrapolating from population estimates from the U.S. Census, Clouston said — about 74,000 children 4 or younger in Nassau and 79,000 in that age group in Suffolk.
Among other findings in the study, published in a CDC document called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:
- About 85% of those 4 and younger who tested positive for COVID-19 during the peak week of omicron were admitted primarily for the virus, compared with 90% during delta.
- About 63% of those hospitalized during omicron who were 4 or younger had no known underlying medical condition, and infants younger than 6 months accounted for 44% of hospitalizations.
Across all variants, about a quarter of children hospitalized with a positive COVID-19 test had severe enough symptoms to need intensive care, Clouston said.
"Omicron COVID wasn’t as severe in the unvaccinated. It infected a lot more people, but the people infected were less likely to die," he said.
The study recommended vaccination among pregnant women, as well as family members and caregivers of infants and young children.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said the state's positivity rate continues to be relatively low — 1.65% averaged over seven days. On Long Island, it's 1.69%, and in New York City, 1.28%.
Of the 169 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on the Island, 70, or 41%, were admitted due to COVID-19 or its complications. That figure is 129 out of 346 in New York City, or 37%, due to COVID or its complications. Statewide, it’s 1,034, of whom 438, or 42%, were admitted due to COVID-19 or its complications.
Statewide, there were 18 New Yorkers who died on Tuesday due to COVID-19 — one in Nassau County and seven in New York City.