MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This winter’s COVID-19 surge has caused a record number of cases in children.

More than 325,000 infections in kids were reported nationwide last week — the highest number since the pandemic started. That means about one in five cases is now among children.

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While the current strain may be milder in adults, experts say it may be cause for concern in kids. Joe Kurland is an infection preventionist at Children’s Minnesota.

“We have been seeing the highest number of admissions of patients with COVID than we have throughout this entire pandemic,” Kurland said.

Children’s Minnesota is monitoring how the Omicron variant impacts kids, while seeing more patients hospitalized with the virus.

“The kids that are getting admitted are on the younger side, so gonna be kids that are too young to be eligible to get vaccinated, and they’re also gonna be kids that maybe haven’t even completed their vaccine series,” Kurland said.

(credit: CBS)

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Dr. Gabrielle Hester says early evidence shows Omicron tends to be an upper respiratory illness. This matters most for children 6 and under, whose airways are narrower.

“It’s caused by swelling of that airway. So, as kids grow, their airways grow along with them and that amount of swelling doesn’t impact them as much anymore,” Dr. Hester said.

She says symptoms can present as croup, and may get worse at night.

“Families should look out for trouble breathing, particularly noisy breathing, or looking like a child is really struggling to get air in,” Dr. Hester said.
That’s when it may be time to seek medical attention. She notes severe outcomes are rare.

“I want parents to be reassured that, you know, kids are really resilient and we have a lot of experience in managing this type of viral presentation in children,” Dr. Hester said.

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Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows 8% of overall COVID-19 cases in kids in Minnesota have come since the Omicron variant emerged.

Jennifer Mayerle