Kids in Louisiana Make Up Almost 20 Percent of New COVID Cases as Hospitals at Capacity

The COVID Delta variant is hospitalizing more children than ever before in one Louisiana hospital, an infectious disease specialist has warned amid a surge in cases in the state.

According to the state's Department of Health, 11,109 new COVID cases have been recorded in Louisiana since Friday, July 30. Children accounted for more than 2,000 of them, WWL-TV reported citing the department. That amounts to around 18 percent of new cases.

"I am as worried about our children today as I have ever been," Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans (CHNOLA) said at a press conference on Monday.

"This virus, the Delta variant of COVID, is every infectious disease specialist's and epidemiologist's worst nightmare."

Half of the children being admitted to the hospital were "perfectly healthy" before contracting the virus, according to Dr. Kline, who said that CHNOLA has seen 20 patients admitted on some days, far higher than the previous daily highs of seven.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards reinstated the statewide mask mandate on Monday following a surge in COVID cases, which applies to Louisianans over the age of five, regardless of vaccination status.

The mandate requires face masks to be worn indoors across the state, including in schools, from Wednesday, August 4 until at least September 1.

"Young people from 12 to 18 are a huge part of community transmission right now," Edwards said at the press conference.

"So let's rid ourselves of the notion that children can't get COVID, or that they can't have serious cases of disease."

In a news release issued on Friday, CHNOLA said that five children were being treated in its intensive care unit.

"The [Delta variant] is more easily spread than earlier variants of the virus that we've seen. It produces a more serious disease, so we're seeing sicker kids than we did before," Dr. Kline said at the time.

Parents of children aged 12 and older are being urged to get them vaccinated. Children under the age of 12, however, are not eligible.

The press conference also saw medical workers reveal that hospitals have run out of capacity for patients suffering from COVID-19 and other serious conditions

"We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients," said Dr. Catherine O'Neal, the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, which is Louisiana's largest hospital.

"I have seen people in four-wheeler accidents and motorcycle accidents and farming accidents in the last two weeks, who sat in their ERs in their small towns.

"Those are my people. Those are your family members. And when they get maimed, they are not coming to a trauma center, because there are no more beds."

Dr. Phyllis Mason, the chief medical officer at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, said: "We don't have the capacity to take care of the COVID patients and those other patients that are coming in for routine things, as well as serious things.

"And so it's really creating that bottleneck where we don't have the capacity on our medical floor to admit these patients even to a bed."

Mason went on: "In addition to that, other hospitals are at capacity as well, and so we're having to hold patients in the emergency room because we can't transfer them anywhere."

child hospital patient, getty, stock
A stock image shows a sick child in a hospital bed. The Delta variant has triggered a surge in COVID cases in the state, with young people also being heavily affected. Getty Images