Northwell Health's Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park...

Northwell Health's Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park in December. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Children infected with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals at a far greater rate than the general population during the first month of the omicron surge, New York State officials said, as experts warned that with future variants likely, children are not immune from the virus.

That warning, laid out in a state Department of Health report, came as all regions in the state are seeing a downward trend in their seven-day average for positivity in testing for COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.

The governor also warned that the omicron surge is not over in the wake of the record-breaking uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past month and a half.

What to know

  • Hospital admissions for children with COVID-19 increased seven-fold, or 700%, statewide from the week of Dec. 5-11 to the week of Jan. 2-8.
  • In contrast, hospitalization for all age groups combined increased only three-fold, or 300%, during that time, according to the state Department of Health.
  • Every region is headed downward in their seven-day average in positivity levels, according to state data released Monday.

A special report released by the state Department of Health on Friday found that hospital admissions for children with COVID-19 increased sevenfold, or 700%, statewide from the week of Dec. 5-11 to the week of Jan. 2-8.

They increased ninefold for children from Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region combined.

In contrast, hospitalization for all age groups combined increased threefold, or 300%, during that time.

The report found that the vast majority — 90% — of children ages 5 to 11 years old who were hospitalized in early January with the virus were unvaccinated.

Among 12- to 17-year-olds who were hospitalized with the virus, 61% were unvaccinated.

Medical experts said the report was worrying.

"Pediatricians are very concerned about both the known and unknown short- and long-term potential consequences of COVID infection on children’s health," said Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief of Huntington Village Pediatrics, a member of the executive council of the Long Island-Brooklyn/Queens chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"There is so much we don’t know about this virus, and I think it’s important to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID among children … Vaccinating children will reduce the risk of them getting seriously sick and requiring hospitalization for COVID."

She noted the high percentages of the children hospitalized with COVID-19 who are unvaccinated.

DAILY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 15.2%

Suffolk: 15.6%

Statewide: 13.12%

7-DAY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 17.8%

Suffolk: 19.2%

Statewide: 15.68%

Source: New York State Department of Health

Meltzer Krief said pediatricians are especially concerned the influx in COVID-19 cases among children could lead to more of them developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a serious illness that could come four to six weeks after even mild and asymptomatic infections.

The largest rise in pediatric hospitalizations, she said, are in the youngest children, under the age of 5, who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.

"It’s so important to surround them with vaccinated and boosted family members, to have all family members aged 2 and up wear high-quality masks when in public and to form a protective cocoon around children to do all we can to prevent transmission of COVID-19," she said.

Dr. Charles Schleien, senior vice president and chair of Pediatric Services at Northwell Health, said most of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients there have been infants or children with existing medical issues. And about 90% were not fully vaccinated.

Schleien said the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen to about 50% of what it was during the peak at the end of December.

He also said the number of people coming into the emergency room has "plummeted."

"A lot of those were parents seeking tests for their kids," he said. "Maybe parents are afraid to come into the hospital … it’s hard to say but we’re seeing less than half the number of patients in the emergency room that we did two weeks ago."

Schleien said he expects new variants to emerge and added that people should no longer hold onto the idea that COVID-19 does not impact children.

"Virtually all the kids that ended up in the hospital, like the adults, are not fully vaccinated," he said. "The key message is to get vaccinated … and if you have an infant, look out for symptoms of an illness. That could mean they have COVID and seek some medical attention."

Meanwhile, Long Island’s seven-day average for positivity dropped to 18.47%, down from 20.86% two days earlier. The statewide level fell to 15.68%, down from 17.59% two days earlier.

The number of new daily cases in test results from Sunday was 1,683 in Nassau, 1,624 in Suffolk, and 26,772 statewide.

Across New York, 152 people died on Sunday of causes linked to the virus, including 18 fatalities in Nassau and 11 in Suffolk.

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