ATLANTA - When 2-year-old Mahogany Heard of Fairburn, Georgia was hospitalized with complications of an inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston earlier this month, her mother Shamika Long-Heard was stunned.
She says she had no idea Mahogany, the youngest of her seven children, had ever been infected with the coronavirus.
"My theory is, if she had COVID, my entire house has had COVID," Long-Heard says.
Almost 2,000 children across the state have been hospitalized so far in the pandemic, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
On Tuesday, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta had 30 kids hospitalized with COVID-19, which is about 5% of their total number of inpatients.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Fortenberry says the highly-contagious the delta variant has also led to a big jump in the pediatric system's emergency and urgent care visits.
"I think it is, in some ways, part of a numbers game, in that more children are getting infected, so more children are likely to have significant symptoms," Dr. Fortenberry says. "We don't know if there is something about the delta variant that affects kids differently, but we're definitely seeing more."
Only tweens and teens age 12 and older are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Andi Shane ,Children's Healthcare of Atlanta infectious disease specialist, says their sickest COVID-19 patients tend to be teenagers who are old enough to be vaccinated but have not received the vaccine.
"Many of them have been overweight or have had asthma, as underlying medical conditions," Dr. Shane says. "But, the one thing I want to emphasize about this virus is that, even though we may have some idea of who may have a more severe infection, this virus can still affect a healthy child in the same way it can affect a child with underlying medical conditions, thus the need for vaccinations."
Children's Healthcare is urging parents to vaccinate kids 12 and up, and make sure everyone who is around younger children is immunized, to form a circle of protection around them.