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COVID-19 omicron variant less severe in children than the delta, according to Seattle Children's

While COVID-19 case counts increase, pediatric hospitalizations are remaining low. But doctors with Seattle Children's said parents shouldn't let their guards down.

SEATTLE — The COVID-19 omicron variant has cases spiking around the country, including in Washington state.

“We’re seeing a lot more positive tests,” said Dr. John McGuire, chief of Pediatric Critical Care at Seattle Children’s.

Omicron appears to cause less severe illness in children than previous variants of the virus, McGuire said.

“Fortunately, this is not correlating to an increased number of kids coming into the hospital. When we saw the delta wave come into our region in August and September, we saw a big increase in the number of cases and we saw a big increase in the number of kids needing hospitalization,” McGuire said.

Data from the Washington State Department of Health backs this up. According to the most recent numbers reported on January 2, the seven-day COVID-19 case count for infants to 11-year-olds was 4,264. In that same time frame, there were 28 hospitalizations for children 11 and younger.

Looking back to when the delta variant was spiking, on September 2, the seven-day COVID-19 case count for infants to 11-year-olds was 3,003 but the hospitalization rate was similar to now, with 23 hospitalizations for children 11 and younger.

But McGuire said parents should stay vigilant.

“The last two weeks have really spiked up, so I think it’s early to say, don’t worry about it. We still recommend that people get vaccinated, that people are cautious around using masking and avoid settings where they’re likely to be exposed and to test of they have symptoms,” he said.

McGuire added that with most kids returning to school after the holidays this week, they are anticipating a big rise in the number of pediatric COVID cases, something Seattle Children’s is preparing for.

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