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Rady Children's Hospital sees record pediatric COVID infections

Rady Children’s Hospital is seeing a record number of children testing positive for COVID. But most of these children didn’t go to the hospital for COVID in the first place. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado explains.

"This omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in the community," said Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at Rady Children's Hospital during a news conference on Monday morning outside their emergency room.

The number of children testing positive for COVID-19 is the highest it’s ever been at the hospital, he said. That's following a nationwide trend.

"Omicron, compared to delta, we are probably twice the number of hospitalizations that we had compared with last winter. But again the kids aren’t as sick," Bradley said. "The number of positive tests is through the roof. That’s ... five times more positive cases are being reported now since last year."

Matthew Bowler / KPBS
Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at Rady Children’s Hospital, speaking at a news conference on Jan. 10, 2022, saying, like the rest of the country, the hospital is seeing a surge in children testing positive for COVID-19.

Twenty children are in isolation with COVID-19, but these children did not come to Rady Children's for COVID-19, he said. Their parents brought them in seeking treatment for other illnesses, like cancer, and routine tests caught the COVID-19 infections.

The children testing positive have either mild or no symptoms and are doing better than some of the children hospitalized for other more common respiratory viruses such as the flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — a cold-like virus.

Megan Clarke-Dimaquibo and her young son Dash were visiting Rady Children’s on Monday. She's the mother of five children. She and her husband are both ICU nurses in San Diego.

They’ve seen the numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19 skyrocket where they work.


"I am concerned," said Clarke-Dimaquibo, adding that her children have not had COVID-19.

Her four older children are vaccinated and they’re taking extra precautions with masking and avoiding crowded places to protect Dash, she said.

"He’s here for an appointment cause he’s got some underlying issues and he’s not old enough to be vaccinated," Clarke-Dimaquibo said.

Dr. Bradley said Clarke-Dimaquibo was doing all the right things and all parents should follow suit: take precautions and vaccinate their children against COVID-19 because even a mild infection can trigger more serious illnesses in children that can have long lasting health repercussions.

"MIS-C ... Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome of Children, where after you get COVID, even mild COVID, 4 to 6 weeks later your body has this intense auto reactive autoimmune response to the virus," he said, adding that it can often infect the heart.

For now, he said he’s not as worried about omicron as the Greek letter to come.

"It would be foolish to think that we’re done with omicron," he said. "I just pray that the next variant is not more virulent and causes more sickness and death."

He also urged parents not to take their children into the emergency rooms to get COVID-19 tests or for treatment of mild symptoms. He recommends parents monitor their children's symptoms and consult with their doctors regularly.