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MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Amid this surge in coronavirus cases, children’s hospitals across the country are reporting an influx of pediatric patients linked to the highly contagious Omicron variant. This spike comes as children are days away from returning to the classroom in Shelby County.

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to break records across Shelby County, health officials are especially concerned about one trend.

Shelby County has more than 13,000 active case right now and just over 20% of them involve kids under 17 years old. Some of the extreme cases ended up here at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Sandy Arnold is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Le Bonheur. Despite the surge, they still have beds available but she is worried about the direction things are heading.

“We are seeing more children test positive. Our numbers have definitely gone up in the last couple of weeks compared to most of the fall,” Dr. Arnold said. “I do worry about hospitalizations in that age group and then I worry about all the unvaccinated children who are over five and there are many of them out there more children in those age groups are unvaccinated than are vaccinated.”

Data from the Shelby County Health Department shows that 24.6% of children are fully vaccinated.
It’s a number Dr. Arnold believes we need to increase if we want to overcome this fifth wave.

“Get yourself vaccinated. Get your children vaccinated, vaccinate everybody around, you’re vulnerable people. That’s your young children and you’re immunocompromised and very elderly people,” she said.

With students days away from retuning to school, Dr. Arnold recommends parents encourage their children to wear a mask and social distance in order to stay healthy.

“We have to figure out how to live with it right. And so closing down schools is not necessarily the answer but being as safe in schools as you can possibly be,” she said.

SCS partnered with Poplar healthcare to offer coronavirus testing for students through December 30, but other testing locations will be open during the New Year’s holiday weekend.