BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's top pediatric medical experts held a joint press briefing Wednesday afternoon to discuss some alarming trends seen across the state related to COVID-19 and kids.
For starters, they are seeing an increase in the number of positive pediatric COVID-19 cases and the number of hospitalizations.
Pediatric cases once represented 10% of new COVID-19 cases. Experts say that is now up to 25%.
"Many parts of the country who are farther down this road than we are, have seen that this continues to worsen, " St. Luke's Children's System Medical Director Dr. Kenny Bramwell said. "That's our biggest concern; that these cases continue to rise and we will potentially reach a point where there are restraints about the care that we can offer to children."
Primary Health Medical Group CEO and pediatrician Dr. David Peterman says preliminary data shows pediatric COVID cases are significantly higher in counties without mask mandates in schools.
Unvaccinated teenagers are also 10 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 complications compared to vaccinated teens, Peterman said, urging Idahoans 12 and older to get vaccinated.
A Saint Alphonsus Neonatologist also joined the call, saying the Boise hospital is seeing unvaccinated COVID-positive pregnant women go into premature labor. Those babies then require around-the-clock care in the NICU, putting additional strain on staffing.
"We're seeing babies born to COVID-positive mothers that are sicker than we would expect them to be and they're staying in the NICU longer," Dr. Nik Shalygin said.
These are in pregnant women who don't have any other risk factors, Dr. Lauren Miller said.
"Are they overweight? Do they have diabetes? Do they already have heart failure or other complications? That's not what we're seeing," Miller said. "The moms that I've had in the ICU are completely healthy. They're runners; they're active; they have multiple children at home; they're in the mid-20s and mid-30s; They're not in any other way unhealthy moms."
Idaho pediatric health experts are also seeing more unvaccinated pregnant woman with severe complications from COVID-19. This lands them in the ICU and in some cases doctors are seeing stillborns and premature births where babies are "sicker than they would expect them to be". pic.twitter.com/83p4DrQ9Ww— Karen Lehr (@KarenLehr) September 29, 2021
Another alarming trend pediatricians across the Treasure Valley are seeing is an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts among adolescents during the pandemic.
"I've practiced many years," Dr. Peterman said. "I have never seen so much anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in children, going down to very young ages."
"Kids are having to deal with loss and grief at earlier ages and times in their lives they shouldn't have to, because they're losing family members who were not vaccinated," Saint Alphonsus Pediatric Hospitalist Director Dr. Jennifer King said.
Above all else, these experts are encouraging all Idahoans who are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect children.
"The best way we have to protect our children, our vulnerable population is to vaccinate everyone around them," Dr. King said. "It's our best chance of keeping those kids safe until the vaccine is approved for everyone. "