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Listen In: Nemours' Dr. Thomas Lacy Talks Central Florida Surge in Pediatric COVID Hospitalizations, "This Is Nothing Like We've Ever Seen Before"

Photo: Ana Tablas
Photo: Ana Tablas

Florida continues to lead the country in pediatric COVID hospitalizations for the second week in a row as classes and after-school activities get into full swing.

WMFE spoke with Nemours' Chief of Children’s Primary Care Dr. Thomas Lacy about surging pediatric cases and his greatest fear for the next few months as well as what it’s like right now.

Read the full interview below. 

Dr. Lacy: This is nothing like we've ever seen before. And nothing that we really anticipated. Unfortunately, the this COVID-19 variant has hit us. About mid-July, we really started seeing the rapid increase. And what's happened over the past six weeks has just been unbelievable. Our, our numbers of positive kids and sick kids is so much higher than it ever was in the COVID pandemic so far. It's just, it's just remarkable. We have more kids in the hospital. We have many, many more kids in our ambulatory outpatient facilities, and our positivity rate has just skyrocketed in terms of testing.

Danielle: So it's the Delta variant then that's causing the rising cases in kids?

Dr. Lacy: It's clearly the Delta variant. It is so much more infectious than the previous COVID strains. And when you combine that with the decreased masking that's occurred at the same time, that's just a perfect storm for spread.

Danielle: I'm guessing you've also seen a rise in multi-inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, which often happens after an infection.

Dr. Lacy: Yeah, we have because the whole total number of cases have risen. And so I don't know that the percentage has gone up. But because the total number of cases has gone up, then the multi-system inflammatory diseases have gone up as well. But what we're also seeing that has really been surprising and different than last year is we've seen kids with COVID pneumonia. We've seen kids in the hospital with respiratory symptoms, similar to what adults get that we really didn't see that last year.

Danielle: Tell me about how sick these kids are.

Dr. Lacy: It ranges if they're a little sick, then they don't even go in the hospital. If they require oxygen, respiratory support, they go in the hospital but we we've actually had a death at our hospital. We've had children on ventilators, so they've been very, very sick.

Danielle: What's your greatest fear when it comes to kids and coronavirus over the next few months? You know, what's the unknown right now.

Dr. Lacy: So we are looking at the rest of August and early September as unknown, we expect a huge huge number of kids sick with with COVID over the next month. And that's really what we're we're concerned about. And then our next concern has to do with flu season because flu season comes right behind that. And we don't know what flu and COVID together would look like that's really a dangerous thing we believe. We're seeing a lot of increase in RSV illness, which is the different respiratory illness that is we normally see in the wintertime but we're seeing in the summertime now and nobody quite knows why that's happening.

Danielle: For the parents out there listening when should they take their kid to see a doctor if they think they've been exposed to COVID?

Dr. Lacy: I always tell parents, regardless of the illness, take your child to the doctor. If they're feeling bad, and your parent's instinct tells you they're sick, and they need to be checked out. So always trust your parent's instinct. You know, I can tell you that they're going to be exposed to COVID at this point that COVID is so rampant in our area. That it's not if they're going to be exposed it's when they're going to be exposed. And just trust your parent's instinct and if your child is acting sick because COVID can present in many different ways, and many different severity of symptoms. Take your child to the doctor if you if your instinct tells you they're getting sick.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.