Report: COVID infections among Florida children rising but hospitalizations remain low

Florida child COVID-19 hospitalizations jump 23% as schools prepare to reopen

A growing number of children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in recent weeks, but only a small fraction of those minors required hospitalization, according to an investigative report from News4Jax sister station WKMG in Orlando.

Of the approximately one million Floridians who have contracted the virus, about 9% were children ranging in age from newborn to 17, WKMG found in data from the Florida Department of Health. That age group represents about 20% of the state’s population.

As of Friday afternoon, the state had received 94,598 reports of children testing positive for COVID-19, an increase of 1,342 cases from the previous day.

Of those pediatric infections, state records show 975 have been hospitalized at some point, or roughly 1% of all children who have tested positive for the virus.

Those pediatric hospitalizations are significantly smaller than the more than 56,000 adults who have been admitted for COVID-related complications.

The state learned of four new hospitalizations of children between Thursday and Friday.

“Since the beginning, we’ve seen that those in the age group between one and 17 tend to have a lower risk of infection, and lower risk of hospitalization as well,” said Dr. Victor Herrera, associate chief medical officer and infectious disease specialist at AdventHealth Orlando.

This week Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that schools would remain open despite COVID-19 infections rising statewide.

“I would say closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” said DeSantis, who said he’s not seen scientific data supporting school closures.

Statewide data indicates the number of weekly pediatric infections dropped in early September as schools resumed in-person learning but began rising again in late November.

However, that increase in cases may not necessarily be linked to schools since the state’s overall weekly infection rate has mirrored the peaks and valleys of pediatric cases.

Hospitalizations of children decreased in early September and has remained relatively consistent in recent weeks, with only 20 reports of hospitalizations in the last week of November.

Of the 18,994 Florida residents who have died from coronavirus, 9 were children, state records show.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.