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A record number of children are being hospitalized as the Omicron variant of Covid rages, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday.
“While children still have the lowest rate of hospitalization of any group, pediatric hospitalizations are at the highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic,” Walensky said, previewing CDC data. “Sadly, we are seeing the rates of hospitalization increasing for children 0 to 4, children who are not yet currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.”
The rate of hospitalizations for children under 5 is 4.3 cases per 100,000 cases, four times as high for kids between 5 and 17 years old. Prior to mid-December the hospitalization rate had been 2.5 cases per 100,000.
Currently, 5-17-year-olds are eligible to receive the vaccine, but children under 5 are not. According to Walensky, CDC data shows that children 5 and older who are unvaccinated are being hospitalized at higher rates than those that are vaccinated.
Though evidence suggests that the Omicron variant may cause milder illness compared to previous strains, its rapid transmissibility has led to high numbers of hospitalizations overall. Hospitalizations are up in 46 states, for an average increase of 40 percent from last week. On average, unvaccinated individuals are 17 times as likely to be hospitalized as those that are.
According to an analysis by the New York Times, the United States is currently had around 600,000 new cases a day for the past week.
There is cause for some hope, though. In South Africa, one of the first countries that Omicron first started surging in, Covid cases appear to be precipitously dropping and also seem to be leveling off in the UK, suggesting that the United States may eventually see similar trends with its own Omicron outbreak.