BELL COUNTY, Texas — COVID cases and hospitalizations are continuing to rise and that includes children's hospitals around the country.
In the past month, we have gone from a few COVID cases a day in Bell County to hundreds. Most of them are Delta variant infections.
Like in other hospitals around the country, Central Texas' hospitals are admitting more and more patients with COVID.
“Our hospitals are extremely full. The Baylor Scott & White ICU has more patients right now in their ICU than they have had through the whole pandemic,” said Dr. Janice Smith, medical director and local health authority for the Bell County Health District.
The Delta variant is also spreading more rapidly among children causing more and more to be hospitalized and in some cases, admitted to the ICU.
That includes the ICU at McLane Children's in Temple.
”The Delta variant is affecting kids more," said Dr. Dominic Lucia, chief medical officer at McLane Children's Medical Center. "Last year during the various surges, we were at 0-5 percent bed capacity with COVID patients. In the past six to eight weeks, it’s been 10-15 percent.”
With mask mandates prohibited and low vaccination rates, health officials fear there could be major outbreaks in schools and more kids in the hospital.
”I think that it is fair to say that everybody in pediatric healthcare is worried about what opening school will bring, especially without any consistent personal protection measures in place,” said Dr. Lucia.
One big concern is, if major outbreaks occur, we could see schools closing as the infection spreads through staff and students.
“Without having these mitigation things that have shown to work in the past and with this more contagious variant, I don’t see how we’re going to have a normal school year," said Dr. Smith. "I hope that we can, but I do think that it is going to be very challenging, and we’re very concerned.”
Medical professionals say now is the time for the community to do its part to fight COVID, if for no other reason than to save lives and keep kids out of the ICU.
”Our system, our healthcare system is near a breaking point," said Dr. Smith. "So again, it’s up to our whole community to do everything they can to stop the spread.”
The health district and doctors are urging parents and students to wear a mask and get vaccinated if you can because it might be the only way to slow the spread keep schools open.