By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota hospitals are under stress to care for adults amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, pediatric hospitals are feeling the pressure, too.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports 131 pediatric ICU beds are currently in use statewide. Only 15 (7%) remain available.

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“In the last week, we’ve been averaging about 20 patients a day at Children’s Minnesota who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and need to be in the hospital,” said Dr. Gabrielle Hester, the director of quality improvement at Children’s Minnesota.

She says there’s a common misconception that kids don’t get sick from COVID-19. When compared to adults, children are at a lower risk to develop severe complications.

“Unfortunately, I have firsthand seen how seriously ill children with COVID-19 can get,” Hester said.

She says kids being hospitalized are having trouble breathing or developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MISC).

Experts say the best thing parents can do to protect children is to get them vaccinated. The state also offer monoclonal antibodies for certain high-risk children.

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Currently, health officials say they are offering the antibody treatment to children over the age of 12 who are at risk for severe COVID. However, the FDA recently expanded eligibility to include the youngest pediatric patients, even newborns.

Medical work is underway to determine the risk criteria for monoclonal antibody treatments for children under 12.

According to Hester, in additions to COVID, Children’s Minnesota is also seeing a lot of patients with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu.

While Hester encourages families to seek care if their child is sick, she encourages them to see if there is a better option before going to urgent care or the emergency department.

“Many times, the pediatrician or the outpatient clinic will be well-equipped to take care of the child and get the help they need in the time that they need it,” Hester said.

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Kate Raddatz