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How children are being impacted by Wisconsin's latest COVID-19 surge

Small girl wearing protective face mask sitting with her teddy bear. Girl child with face mask on brown background after getting vaccination.
Dr. Michael Gutzeit says Children's Wisconsin is seeing an increase in the number of kids testing positive for COVID-19.

Over the holidays, there was a drastic increase of COVID-19 related hospitalizations — especially among children. Children over five are eligible to be vaccinated. However, compared to the adult populations, vaccinations among children five to 17 remain low.

Dr. Michael Gutzeit, chief medical officer at Children’s Wisconsin, says Children's is seeing an increase in the number of kids testing positive for COVID-19 as well as an increase in the number of hospitalizations.

"Many times, children who are admitted into the hospital have COVID-19 as well as something else going on," he says.

Gutzeit says, "In terms of the numbers of kids who are coming in requiring hospitalization, we've seen that number almost double over the course of the past week or two." The hospital's latest information, he says, shows about 28 to 30 patients on any given day are being diagnosed with COVID.

Fortunately many patients are recovering, Gutzeit says, but there are some who are seriously affected.

Long COVID-19 is also having an impact on kids. "We are seeing kids who do have similar symptoms that adults have — fatigue, ongoing challenges with things like muscle aches, or headaches or just a lack of energy," Gutzeit says.

Another longer term effect of COVID-19 is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. MSI-C is a more severe form of COVID. Wisconsin's Department of Health Services has reported over 140 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

As for vaccination, it's important to highlight that only children over five can receive it. Gutzeit says ways to protect children under five from potentially contracting the virus is for people who can get vaccinated to do so and ensure that precautions like social distancing and wearing a mask are still being taken.

"We do need to make sure that we focus our efforts on all the prevention measures that we know that work. Just like anybody else who might be at risk for illness, we want to make sure that we provide those layers of protection for kids who are not able to get vaccinated yet," he says.

Parents or guardian should reach out to trusted resources if they have questions, he adds — like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and local health departments.

The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but it's been especially tough for children. It can be helpful for adults to listen to their children when they express concerns or frustrations, Gutzeit says. Children's Wisconsin offers mental and behavioral services along with resources for parents to support the children in their life.

He emphasizes that adult should be role models for their kids and that it's important to take care of ourselves and make sure conversations around behavior and mental health are being had.

Gutzeit is hopeful that the omicron variant will fade and there will be a point where normal activities can resume. "I would hope that 2022 is going to be a better year. I'm going to be optimistic about that. And one of the ways to do that is for everybody who's eligible to get the vaccine." he says.

The Milwaukee Health Department continues to host community clinics for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.