ATLANTA - Children's Healthcare of Atlanta had 118 kids hospitalized with COVID-19 Wednesday, up from 102 on Monday and the pediatric system's highest number of coronavirus patients so far in the pandemic.
A spokeswoman says 74% of the children hospitalized have at least one pre-existing medical condition, and, with three hospitals, Children's has enough capacity to see and treat patients.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the jump in cases is part of a national trend.
"Over the last several weeks and over the holidays, we have seen a significant and rapid increase in COVID-19 cases," Dr. Walensky says. "This increase reflects both cases caused by the delta variant, and, more importantly now, cases surging by the omicron variant."
The CDC projects the omicron variant now makes up 95% of new COVID-19 infections.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the good news is omicron, thought to be at least three times more contagious than the highly transmissible delta variant, does not seem to make people as sick as the previous variant.
"But, the sheer volume of infections, because of its profound transmissibility, means that many more children will get infected, and, as many more get infected, usually a certain proportion of them, usually children with underlying comorbidities are going to wind up in the hospital," Dr. Fauci says. "That is just an inevitability."
Teenagers 12 to 15 could begin getting Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots as soon as Thursday, if the CDC signs off on expanding third shots for that age group.
Right now, children age 5 and to 11 are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Younger children, ages 6 months to 4 years old are not yet able to get the vaccine.
Dr. Fauci says he knows parents are concerned about protecting younger children from the fast-moving variant.
"One of the best was to prevent infection in children, who are not able to be vaccinated because of their age, is to surround the children with people who are vaccinated, and to do the important things of when they are out," Fauci says. "Make sure that if they're old enough to be able to tolerate a mask, put a mask on them, particularly in congregate settings."
Dr. Fauci says researchers are studying the most effective dosing regimen for a COVID-9 vaccine for younger children.
He says they could have more data and a decision on the vaccine by the middle of 2022, which may be too late for the omicron surge.