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Pediatric COVID Admissions Rising 'Exponentially' At Saint Francis, Doctors Say

Saint Francis Health System

COVID-19 admissions are rising "exponentially" at the Children's Hospital at Saint Francis, doctors said Tuesday.

"You're going to see about a six and a half-time increase in hospitalizations" from the start of June through the end of August, said Dr. Travis Campbell, chair of the pediatrics department and the children's hospital, said during a virtual press briefing Tuesday afternoon. 

"Now, just early on here in September, I don't have the numbers but I would say those numbers are exponentially increasing in the same consistency that they have from early June to now," Campbell said, attributing the initial bump in June to the delta variant and the continuing exponential rise to the return to in-person schooling in the state.

"Our most susceptible age range are 0-4 years, and we're seeing those kids admitted to the hospital ten times higher with this delta variant compared to the previous COVID infection and the winter wave of last year," Campbell said.

Campbell said kids 12 and up who are fully vaccinated are being hospitalized at a rate ten times less than their unvaccinated peers. He called on parents to get themselves and all eligible children vaccinated for protection, and encouraged the use of masks.

"Most schools don't have a mandate. Some private schools do and some charter schools do, but most have no mandate to mask," Campbell said. "But what that means is parents can still make an informed decision, look at the data themselves, ask their pediatricians or the physicians they trust their kids to see. ... I think what they'll find is all pediatricians in the Tulsa area and most family physicians say, 'Please mask your children going into the school year, because it is one thing that we can do for those unvaccinated kids.'"

Dr. Brad Hardy, family medicine physician at Saint Francis's Warren Clinic, agreed.

"You know, politicians will say there's inconclusive evidence in regards to masking, in regards to how well it works, but if you ask any clinician, physician, anybody who actually studies science, I mean, there's universal acceptance," Hardy said.

Dr. Cliff Robertson, Saint Francis president and CEO, said the health care system would support any mask mandates implemented by local government.

"Our role is not to be in the middle of the politics. We're not a political organization. What is important to us is that we do everything we can possibly do to educate our community," Robertson said. "In the instance of whether kids should wear masks or not, we really believe parents need information and with that information they can make the right decision for them and their kids."

"We've said publicly, and I'll say again today, that if there was a mask mandate, either locally or more broadly, we would not be opposed. We would support a mask mandate," Robertson said.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's most recent weekly epidemiology report, dated Sept. 1, at least four Oklahoma children have died of COVID-19. According to OSDH, 95 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide from Aug. 1 through Aug. 30.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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