ATLANTA — On Thursday, officials from several Georgia hospital systems gathered outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium to address the public on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the topics discussed, was a growing concern over the viruses' impact on teens and children.
Dr. Jim Fortenberry, the chief medical officer with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said that they're seeing more COVID-19 positive patients in their emergency departments, urgent care centers, and hospitals than at any other time during the pandemic.
Fortenberry added that while a small number of children who test positive for the virus need to be hospitalized, that doesn't mean they don't experience illness, serious illness even, and being infected can lead them to miss out on important activities such as school or sports.
"The COVID-19 virus, together with an unusual summer surge of respiratory viruses is fueling high volumes in our emergency departments, our urgent cares, our hospital floors, and our ICUs," he added, explaining how that particular combination has had the greatest impact on children.
While Fortenberry was also quick to point out that the majority of children who are hospitalized have underlying medical issues, such as cancer, sickle cell, severe obesity, and asthma, he did mention that some previously healthy kids have come into hospitals as well.
As for how to best protect kids from the Delta variant? The answer, he says, seems simple: get vaccinated.
"Many kids can't get the vaccine because of their age, and we all place a role in reducing the spread to them," Dr. Fortenberry added.
He mentioned active vaccine trials have begun for children under the age of 12, but for the time being, children should be following guidelines and wearing masks, especially as they return to the classroom for school.
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Finally, Fortenberry said that he is optimistic that the growing impact on kids and teens will encourage others to get vaccinated.
"By getting that vaccine, they're helping their kids," he said.
For more information on what COVID-19 means for teens and children, visit choa.org.