Colo. children not yet impacted by omicron

Local cases of more transmissible variant are starting to emerge

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Doctors nationwide say that while children have been the least impacted in contracting COVID-19, it does not mean they are immune, and with a third variant hitting the streets of Colorado cases will continue to go up.

Samuel Dominguez, a pediatric disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said statewide case numbers are holding steady with young patients. However, Dominguez said while national media outlets are reporting continued increases in young patients contracting the new omicron variant with hospital stays increasing, Colorado is still lagging behind.

Dominguez said CHC facilities along the Front Range had started seeing a decrease in young patients just before the Thanksgiving holiday. That decrease has continued as more cases of omicron are starting to be reported at all age levels.

Because Colorado cases are further behind the jump in COVID rates in states like Florida and New York, Dominguez said infectious disease doctors are relying on data from those states as they prepare to handle the anticipated increase.

“Really, in terms of what we are seeing here right now, it’s just not quite where the rest of the country is,” Dominguez said. “At the state level, we have no real good data for comparisons (between the delta and omicron variants) at this time.”

Even as Colorado is playing catch-up with the rest of the country, Dominguez said the newest variant it is here, and the biggest concern is how transmissible it is.

Like Colorado doctors, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to work on a world scale to get a grasp on what kind of impact the new variant will have on the U.S. As cases spread, the CDC reported that omicron spreads more easily than the original COVID strain and more studies are needed to see how it compares to the Delta variant.

According to the CDC timeline, Omicron was first reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 24. By Nov. 26, WHO classified Omicron as a “variant of concern.” The U.S. followed suit with the same labeling by Nov. 30. By Dec. 1, the U.S. had its first confirmed case of the new variant that is now competing with the Delta variant, which has been the dominant strain since summer.

On the website, the CDC stressed that “anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.”

The CDC said more data is needed to know if Omicron infections, including breakthrough infections for vaccinated citizens, cause more sever illness or death than infection with other COVID variants.

According to the CDC, the current vaccines on the market, including Pizer and Moderna, are expected to protect people from “severe” illness, hospitalizations and deaths. However, the CDC warned that it expects an increase in breakthrough cases among people who are fully vaccinated.

U.S. health officials continue to encourage residents to not only get the first round of vaccinations, but also get the booster shot for added protection.

In children, Dominguez said, vaccinations are an important preventive step for ages 5 and older to be protected as much as possible.

As omicron becomes the most prevalent variant spreading COVID, Dominguez said winter break from schools is both good and bad to help prevent the spread among children and youths.

“The time off means decreases in spreading (COVID) in the schools,” he said. “But the bad side is there are a lot more holiday gatherings this time of year where it can also spread. Traveling also tends to increase this time of year.”

As families gathered and traveled throughout the holiday season, Johns Hopkins University reported the highest total cases of COVID since pandemic tracking officially began on Jan. 21, 2020. Breaking the record on Dec. 29, data showed the U.S. had 377,014 confirmed cases.

In Colorado, the state had just over 4,700 confirmed cases on Dec. 29, up about 67% from 2,824 confirmed cases the week before.

As cases increase, the need for testing centers has also increased. According to the Douglas County website, testing at Sky Ridge Medial Center resumes this month. In Arapahoe County, testing sites can be seen with increasing lines at the UCHealth Campus along Arapahoe Road and the Arapahoe Crossing Shopping Center.

Still, Dominguez said, the “silver lining” for children and young adults is that it is the demographic least impacted in contracting COVID.

“Overall, children have done a lot better handling this than adults,” he said. “But to say children are not impacted or cannot get this at all is just wrong.”

Dominguez stressed that children can still get COVID, spread COVID and some can get sick from it. Another area of concern for the younger population, Dominguez said, is that children can contract a condition known as MIS-C.

MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome, is a serious condition associated with COVID-19 where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

Symptoms of MIS-C can include:

• Abnormal gut pain

• Bloodshot eyes

• Chest tightness/pain

• Diarrhea

• Feeling extra tired

• Headache

• Low blood pressure

• Neck pain

For testing centers in Douglas County, visit the website at ­douglas.co.us/health-department/covid-19/testing. For a list of ­COVID testing centers in Arapahoe, Jefferson and Adams counties, visit the website at tchd.org/827/Free-Testing-Sites.

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