His mother Yessica Gonzalez, who was frightened, said that it wasn't meant to be this way. Francisco was a normal healthy, rambunctious child. Francisco was 9 years old, so he wasn't yet vaccinated. However, most of his family members were vaccinated. She knew that coronavirus was rarely a serious illness in children.
The highly contagious delta variant is spreading rapidly across the U.S. and children are now filling hospitals intensive care beds in record numbers instead of going to school. This is even more than during the peak of the pandemic. Many children are too young for the vaccine which is only available to people 12 years and older.
The virus is spreading anxiety and creating turmoil among parents, administrators, and politicians across the U.S., particularly in Florida and Texas where Republican governors have banned schools from requiring children to wear masks.
Experts say that the stakes are high with millions of children returning this month to school.
Dr. Creech stated that the high rates of infection in the community are "causing our children's hospitals feel the squeeze". Buddy Creech is an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and is leading research for Moderna's vaccine to children younger than 12. Creech stated that these shots won't likely be available for several more months.
"I'm really concerned," Dr. Sonja Rasmussen of the University of Florida, a pediatrician as well as a public health expert, said. "It's so disappointing to see these numbers rise again."
Although pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are still lower than for adults, they have risen in recent weeks to 0.41 per 100,000 children between 0 and 17, compared to 0.31 per 100,000 in mid-January. This is according to an August 13 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health calls the increase in cases among children "very worrying."
He pointed out that more than 400 children in the United States have died from COVID-19 since 2001, when the pandemic started. Collins said that there are nearly 2,000 children in the hospital right now, with many in ICU and some under 4 years old.
Experts believe that adults who haven't had their shots are contributing to the rise in sick children and grownups. This has been particularly prevalent in areas with low vaccination rates like the South.
Although it is evident that the delta variant of the virus is more contagious than its original counterpart, scientists aren't yet able to determine if it causes more severe illness or if it makes children more vulnerable.
Many hospitals are in turmoil as experts try to answer these questions. Texas is the worst affected. They reported that 196 children were being treated with COVID-19 on Tuesday. This compares to 163 children in December's previous peak.
At Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the nation's largest pediatric hospital, the number of youngsters treated for COVID-19 is at an all-time high, said Dr. Jim Versalovic, interim pediatrician-in-chief. He said that the majority of patients have been diagnosed with delta infections in recent weeks and that most children 12 years old and older have not received shots.
He said, "It's spreading like wildfire throughout our communities."
His hospital system has been able to diagnose 200 children with COVID-19 per day at times, with approximately 6% needing hospital treatment. Some days, there have been 45 children admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
Versalovic stated that he believes children are being hospitalized more because they are infected with the delta variant, and not because it makes them more sick.
Francisco is currently being treated at Children's Medical Center Dallas. The number of COVID-19 patients jumped from 10 to 29 in the week of August 4th to 9.
Francisco is doing well and should be able to recover soon. However, his mother is concerned and may home-school him. She said that the virus is "very dangerous."
The nation's schools are facing another challenge with the delta surge, as they deal with students who have fallen behind in school or suffered mental health issues from the upheaval.
Schools in the South that have been reopened are already experiencing outbreaks of resistance to mask-wearing.
Some school administrators in Texas are imposing masks against the governor and the state Supreme Court. Michael Hinojosa, a Dallas school superintendent and one of the largest districts in Texas, is one of them.
He said, "This delta variant of the gene is unique and the numbers in the county are very significant." "We will continue to enforce our mask mandate to protect students, parents, and teachers.
Hinojosa stated that although the virus has already infected dozens of students, staff and faculty since the 180 schools in Dallas' district reopened on Aug. 5, they are still far less than the number of those who were in-person learning in spring.
Hinojosa, who is well aware of the devastating effects the pandemic has had on children's lives, is determined to keep his schools open.
He said, "We know that they have been scarred by it." "That's why they have to be back with their teachers and friends."
Schools in DeSoto (a suburb of Dallas) are now requiring masks. Superintendent D'Andre Weaver stated that there has not been any pushback from parents. Perhaps because many are Black and their community was hard hit earlier in the pandemic. Weaver stated that some parents considered keeping their children home due to the governor's opposition regarding school mask requirements.
Weaver, both a parent, and administrator, said that the delta surge was "a major concern, and it's a big frustration." It is a major fear.
His two daughters, first and second grades, started this week. Weaver has asked his girls "How are you feeling?" Weaver asked. "I know that many parents are in the exact same boat."
Weaver acknowledged that virtual learning was a difficult experience for many children last year. However, Weaver stated, "We cannot help but prepare that option."