San Francisco Chronicle
COVID cases still low among children after schools reopen.
It’s been just over a month since public schools reopened their doors for full-time, in-person instruction after a lengthy pandemic break.
And COVID has found its way into classrooms. On Friday, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health reported that “less than five” outbreaks had occurred at school settings in the city, each with fewer than five cases of students or staff.
Also on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said that two of his four children, who are all under 12, tested positive for the coronavirus, though they did not contract it at school.
Still, the situation in the broader region has been better than in many parts of the country, where school reopenings combined with the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant put enormous strain on pediatric hospitals, which face severe staff shortages and overcapacity in intensive care units.
Pediatric hospitals in the Bay Area have reported few COVID admissions in the past month, even though children younger than 12 do not yet have access to coronavirus vaccines.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland currently has one child hospitalized with COVID,
down from a peak of 12 patients on Aug. 21. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco reported three hospitalized COVID pediatric patients as of Sept. 14, consistent with the number that was in the hospital on Aug. 14, July 14 and June 14.
“I think the relatively low numbers of hospitalized patients reflect a high percentage of vaccinated Bay Area residents,” said Suzanne Leigh, spokesperson for UCSF. “When children are hospitalized, it tends to be because they have not been vaccinated or their parents and caregivers have not been vaccinated.”
Stanford Children’s Health hospital reported that over the past month, the census of pediatric inpatients treated for COVID-19 has fluctuated between two and six at any time. There are currently four patients with the virus at the hospital.
“These patient numbers are very manageable from a capacity perspective, both in terms of intensive-care beds and overall beds,” said Lisa Kim, spokesperson for Stanford Health Care. It’s “on par,” she said, with July and August — before schools resumed and before the delta variant accounted for 100% of cases in California, as it does now.
California’s comprehensive health orders and mitigation measures, like universal indoor masking recommendations (which become requirements in the Bay Area), vaccination mandates for health care workers and vaccine-or-testing requirements for educators, appear to be making an impact on keeping the numbers low.
A representative for Kaiser Permanente Northern California said pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been stable for the past few months, including September.
“It remains a low percentage of total COVID-19 cases, and we need to keep it that way,” Kaiser Permanente said in a statement.
There are currently about 15 pediatric cases with COVID-19 in Northern California Kaiser Permanente hospitals.
“We are prepared for a surge in pediatric hospitalizations if it occurs, but believe it is avoidable if schools continue to encourage masking and adults who are eligible get vaccinated,” the statement continued.
Dr. Vidya Mony, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said that “we have seen few pediatric COVID-19 patients” at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, O’Connor Hospital and St. Louise Regional Hospital.
No pediatric COVID patients were in critical condition, Mony said, adding: “Our month-tomonth inpatient hospitalization trends for this population have remained stable even after in-person learning began in our local schools.”
Still, even as California’s numbers fall from their peak in late August, new pediatric cases remain a concern. Kids represent a growing proportion of the state’s cases, according to analysis from Dr. George Lemp, an infectious disease expert who is retired from the University of California.
From Sept. 2 to Sept. 8, children under 18 represented 26% of new cases in the state, a sharp rise from 15% in the first two weeks of July.
“It is striking that the cases have shifted substantially towards children and adolescents since the beginning of the school year in mid- to late August,” Lemp said by email. “Schools may need to double down on COVID-19 safety protocols.”
Nationally, children represented 29% of COVID cases for the week ending Sept. 9, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There were 243,373 pediatric cases during that time period.
For San Francisco children, despite the outbreaks, the news is generally good. Case numbers in the public schools have been falling since late August and the city reported the outbreaks did not lead to hospitalizations.
Even in the hard-hit Sacramento region, officials at the Sutter Medical Center reported low numbers of children hospitalized with COVID. Most pediatric patients are over 12 and unvaccinated, a hospital spokesperson said.