Children Health

Minnesota healthcare providers see a rise in COVID cases among children

He added, “I think that probably the biggest thing that stood out is that at this point about one in 10 of every U.S. children has been infected with COVID and that’s a startling number to hear about.”

Dr. Berkowitz attributes the rise in cases over the last month to a variety of factors. 

“It’s driven by Omicron, there still may be some Delta and most importantly, it’s probably being driven by the people that are unvaccinated,” he said. “They’re getting sick and they’re passing it on.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there have been high case rates in children since mid to late summer as Delta became the dominant strain, with several peaks in all age groups. An MDH spokesperson told us in mid-December, cases started to increase for newborns through four-year-olds and 12- to 18-year-olds. 

Major providers including M Health Fairview, Allina Health, HealthPartners and Hennepin Healthcare told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they’re seeing an increase in infections among kids in the Twin Cities right now.

“We’ve seen it spread really quickly,” said Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, who practices internal medicine and pediatrics for Hennepin Healthcare. “I’m most concerned about our kids under the age of five who haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet.”

Dr. Lichtsinn said she’s noticing more children experiencing a sore throat amid the surge in Omicron cases compared to previous variants.

“I think the thing to keep in mind with Omicron specifically is that it is so contagious, that going out into the world without a high filtration N95 or KN95 type mask, you’re likely to be exposed in Minnesota certainly and in other parts of the country as well,” she said. “The most important thing is to get vaccinated as soon as possible if you’re not.”

She explained while pediatric cases are growing, it hasn’t hit Minnesota hospitals yet.

“It’s really, really scary just knowing what’s coming,” said Dr. Lichtsinn. “I suspect based on what we’re seeing in New York that we will see dramatic increases in hospitalizations. Now, will the actual hospitalization rate be higher than it was in other variants? I don’t know.”

The Omicron variant was first identified in Minnesota at the start of December.

It was right around the time Alison Andrews and her two daughters tested positive for COVID-19. She doesn’t know whether they had a variant or not.

“When COVID started, the whole goal was to never have it,” she said. “So it was definitely a shock.” 

Andrews told us her eight-year-old daughter Amelia came home from school with a cough but no other symptoms. 

“We did a PCR test and I kept her home on Friday,” said Andrews. “It came back positive.”

Her younger daughter, Margot, didn’t have any symptoms. Her rapid test came back negative. 

“Then that following Tuesday, I started to get sick,” said Andrews. “Me and Margot tested again, this time a PCR [test], which is the one that takes a couple of days to come back. That came back positive for both of us.”

Andrews was vaccinated at the time and had to cancel her booster appointment due to her infection. Both of her daughters had received their first dose of the vaccine.

“I just kept thinking, I just really hope this doesn’t get worse,” she said. “It’s just really is scary to have a sick kid so it was a big relief for me that they had their first shot and that they didn’t get sicker.”

As COVID cases continue to rise, she advises families to wear a mask, wash their hands, and stay home when they can.

“Also, just have things on hand at home because as soon as you’re in isolation, you think about all the things that you can’t do anymore and it was like ‘How do I get food?’, ‘How do we get medication if we need it?’” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen or when you’re going to get sicker.”

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