Baton Rouge kids’s hospital nears capability, braces for surge in Covid instances forward of faculty 12 months

Dr. Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, said the rise in Covid-19 cases is currently double what it was when the pandemic first spike last year.

“We’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in the last few weeks,” Dunbar told CNN on Friday. “A significant number of children have to be hospitalized.”

Dunbar said they are seeing more children who are sick from a respiratory point of view and an increase in those who are acutely sick with Covid-19. Many children need some type of breathing assistance, be it supplemental oxygen or breathing tubes, he added.

In July alone, 62 children came to the emergency room and tested positive for Covid-19, 58 of whom were hospitalized in the past two weeks, Nicole Terry, communications manager for the Franciscan Missionary of Our Lady Health System, said on Friday.

By comparison, only 18 children with Covid-19 came to the emergency room in June, Terry said.

The July cases account for nearly half of all positive cases the hospital has seen this year, as well as nearly half of all positive cases from the first wave of the pandemic from March to August 2020, Terry said.

The children’s hospital treats children from 4 weeks to 17 years of age, she said.

The hospital is currently treating seven Covid-19 patients, but Dunbar said they had between eight and 12 patients a day. The hospital has up to six admissions a day, with about 50% of those patients going to the intensive care unit, Dunbar said.

“Every time a child is sick it’s hard. When you put it in the context of Covid, it’s hard. Restricted attendance is difficult, certainly for younger children. Teenagers can understand what is going on, younger children understand it maybe not, “said Dunbar.

“There is still the unknown and fear in Covid, especially what that could mean for a child in the short and long term.”

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Dunbar attributes the increase in cases to the delta variant, which he believes is widespread in the Baton Rouge community, as well as low vaccination rates across the country.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 90% of the 5,000+ Covid cases from July 15-21 were people who weren’t fully vaccinated.

Dunbar said he anticipates an increase in cases if the school year starts in a few weeks. Although the state health department recommends masking in schools, Dunbar said every local county is in control.

Masks are recommended in West Baton Rouge schools but are not required for students when they return to classrooms on Aug. 9, according to the district website.

The East Baton Rough Parish School System announced on its website that the guidelines will be released on August 3rd, just a week before school is scheduled to start on August 11th.

To keep children safe at school, Dunbar said that students 12 and over should get vaccinated. For students not eligible for the vaccine, Dunbar said the answer is masking and social distancing.

In preparing for the expected surge, Dunbar said the hospital was actually lucky as many hospitals in the south were suffering from staff shortages. Our Lady of the Lake will increase her staff and open new hospital beds.

Dunbar said most children’s hospitals, especially in the south, were also very busy with RSV, or the respiratory syncytial virus, this summer.

“They start with the pandemic for the last 18 months and then the RSV for the last couple of months. It just seems like one thing at a time that keeps our teams very busy,” said Dunbar.

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