UF Health medical leaders express concern over increased rate of COVID child deaths

Jacksonville's COVID numbers continue to drop, but there are still children fighting the virus at Wolfson Children's Hospital. Kids and Covid was the main topic Tuesday during a conference call of local legislators, city council and school board members and hospital staff at UF Health.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – UF Health officials wrapped up a teleconference with local politicians Tuesday, filling them in on where the city stands with the COVID-19 pandemic, including local cases and how the virus is now affecting children.

At UF Health as of Tuesday, 127 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, with 44 of those patients in the ICU. At Baptist’s five hospitals, 294 patients are being treated for COVID-19 with 89 in the ICU. At Ascension St. Vincent’s three hospitals, 225 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 with 97 in the ICU. At Flagler Health, 51 patients have COVID-19 with 13 in the ICU and eight on ventilators.

While the numbers appear to be coming down, ICUs are still about 75% full. Currently, 17 patients at UF Health are on ventilators and the average stay for a COVID-19 patient is nine days.

“We are better than a few weeks ago but our cases remain steady and are not declining,” UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead said. “We are hopeful that we don’t get another surge following the holiday.”

The percentage of COVID-19 patients in the hospital who are unvaccinated has dropped from the 90s to 83% at UF Health, officials said.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a leading pediatrician dealing with infectious disease at both UF Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, confirmed during Tuesday’s call that the death of a teen in St. Johns County recently was a result of COVID.

And he said some kids are getting very sick. As of Tuesday, there are 14 kids at Wolfson being treated for COVID with five in the ICU. Three new child cases were admitted to the hospital on Monday.

“Kids do get sick. Kids do get hospitalized. Kids do get sick and go to the ICU get intubated, be on a ventilator and even be on ECMO which is a heart lung machine, sort of a last ditch effort to support these children. Unfortunately children do die. In fact many of you probably heard the news, there’s a 17-year-old who died in St. Johns County just in the last few days so I think we have to be very sure and understand that kids can get serious illness. And I can tell you that in the almost 18 months ending in June we had three deaths in our area in children. That’s one death every six months. And just in July and August we had four deaths in children so that’s two deaths a month.”

Rathore said in most cases, children who become sick with COVID do recover, both those who end up in the ICU are having severe problems with both their hearts and lungs. They’re damaged by the virus, and as we have learned, some don’t survive.

“Protecting our children is the most important thing we can do,” Rathore said. “I hope the future generations remember us as people who protected their children and not a group of people who put their children at risk.”

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.