As the delta variant spreads rapidly across the country, Mississippi officials are warning about hospitalizations of children with severe cases of COVID-19.
Of the seven children currently in the intensive care unit due to COVID-19, two are on ventilators, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
“Delta Surge — be careful,” Dobbs said in a terse tweet Tuesday, while sharing the updates on the latest hospitalizations.
Dobbs initially said 12 children statewide were in the ICU due to COVID-19, though later revised that to a smaller number after a hospital corrected its report.
“Please be safe and if you are 12 or older — please protect yourself,” he said.
Children are less likely than adults to have serious COVID-19 infections. Most have mild symptoms, if any, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though in rare instances, they have developed severe cases that led to hospitalization or death.
It is not clear what the ages of the seven children are, if they were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or if any have underlying health conditions that would put them at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19. ABC News has reached out to the Mississippi Department of Health for more information on the cases.
Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told ABC affiliate WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, that his facility is currently treating four pediatric COVID-19 patients, two of whom are on ventilators.
“We have had more pediatric admissions than we had early in the pandemic,” Jones told the station.
The state has been seeing a “pretty alarming” increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Dobbs said during a press briefing last Friday, as the highly contagious delta variant, which was initially identified in India, has quickly become the dominant variant in the state.
“We have seen pretty much an entire takeover of the delta variant for our transmission,” Dobbs said during the briefing, noting that the current cases in the state are “pretty much all delta.”
Hospital systems are not currently overwhelmed, but Dobbs said there are “concerns about it going forward, as has been seen in other states” due to delta, which has become the dominant variant nationwide.
Mississippi’s daily COVID-19 case average has more than doubled in the last three weeks. Less than three weeks ago, there were under 100 patients receiving care for COVID-19 in Mississippi. As of July 11, there were nearly 200. Hospital admissions have also increased by 26.7% in the last week.
The state has seen an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks as well, particularly among youth, in summer activities and nursing homes, Dobbs said.
The delta variant is surging as Mississippi has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the country, with approximately one-third of the state’s total population fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The “vast majority” of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state now are in unvaccinated people, Dobbs said.
Due to the low vaccination rate, the state health department advised Friday that those who are ages 65 and older or have chronic medical conditions avoid mass indoor gatherings for several weeks.
“Our collective under-vaccination in the state has put us all at risk, especially the most vulnerable,” Dobbs said.
Editor’s Note: A state health officer has issued a correction revising the number of children hospitalized with severe COVID-19 cases from 12 to seven.