Most kids in ICU with COVID-19 had underlying conditions

Healthy young kids in New York may be spared from the worst of Omicron. 

The majority of children hospitalized in recent weeks with serious cases of COVID-19 at one major New York City pediatric center had underlying conditions or were adolescents, a doctor told The Post.

Most younger children admitted to Northwell Health’s pediatric ICU amid a wave of Omicron were immunosuppressed, had cancer or other preexisting problems, said Dr. Matthew Harris, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine. 

“The majority of kids we’re seeing in the ICU had preexisting health conditions or are adolescents with symptoms much like adults,” he said. “We are seeing very few young children under 5 and infants in the ICU. Their cases are overwhelmingly more mild.” 

In New York, the hospitalization rate of children doubled this week — but the state has yet to provide meaningful details about the age group, including what percentage of the kids had health problems before they got infected.

Overall, Harris said roughly one-third to a half of all kids hospitalized with COVID-19 had underlying health conditions.

He said the hospital was hit by “a wave of diagnosis” among kids who often came in to be treated for reasons other than COVID-19, he said.

“A week and a half ago 2-3 kids were coming in with COVID per day, and now we have close to 30,” he said.  “Not all of them are there primarily for COVID — they might come in for a broken leg — and test positive for COVID while they’re here.”

He added, “The vast majority who do test positive go home.”

The majority of cases are kids under 5 and that children hit the hardest were unvaccinated or immunocompromised, he said.

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Dr. Mitch Katz, head of city’s public hospital system Health+Hospitals, echoed that observation at a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday.

 “Most of the children coming in are either under 5 and not eligible for vaccination, they’re healthy children with fever or they’re over five and unvaccinated and they’re coming in with COVID-like symptoms or they’re coming in with other things and being tested on the way in,” said  Katz.

Dr. Harris said most of the cases of young children have been mild.

“We’re seeing the children recover…in general we’re not seeing children doing poorly, we’re seeing children coming in needing treatment from several days and then ultimately getting released.” 

Statewide, COVID-19 admissions for kids spiked from 70 to 184 this week with 109 cases in New York City, according to state data.

Other cities may be faring differently. Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious-disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Thursday that two-thirds of kids hospitalized with COVID-19 had underlying conditions.

“They’re struggling to breathe, coughing, coughing, coughing,” Offit said. “A handful were sent to the ICU to be sedated. We put the attachment down their throat that’s attached to a ventilator, and the parents are crying.”

“It’s just so heartbreaking,” he said.