CATES: COVID is now affecting young people

On Aug. 14, 1,900 children were hospitalized with COVID in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On Aug. 15, another 1,800 kids were hospitalized with COVID. In other words, 3,700 of our children were hospitalized over two days this past weekend from something that is now largely preventable. Most hospitalizations are now in people under 50, with people in their 30s setting record highs for hospital admissions because of this latest surge. The average person hospitalized for COVID right now is 44. In earlier surges, the average age was over 65. The reason is very simple. Older people have gotten the vaccination at higher rates.

I cannot say this enough, COVID is horrible. It is by far the worst single condition I have seen in nearly 30 years of working in health care.

Its immediate effects, long-term effects and collateral damage effects large numbers of people in so many negative ways. Far too many people die, and they die with awful suffering. Those that are hospitalized and survive have their health affected for months, many will have issues for the rest of their lives because of the damage COVID caused to their system.

It has had serious ramifications on our economy, and health care and health care professionals will never be the same. And that knowledge is from the last surge — this surge is worse. It’s worse because it is largely preventable with vaccination. It’s worse because of the effect it is having on kids, the most vulnerable people in our community.

Just to give you some perspective. The week of June 8 in the state of Texas there were 131 confirmed cases of COVID. A little over one month later, on the 18th of July, we had 4,478 cases in the state for that week.

On Aug. 8, we had 25,971 cases in Texas. Not that week, on that one day. On Jan. 15, the worst day of the last surge, we had 23,196 people diagnosed with COVID. We worked our way up to that number over weeks.

This surge is hitting harder and faster than it did last winter. And, again, it is primarily affecting young people. All three hospitals here in Odessa and Midland are overwhelmed with COVID patients. We are calling other hospitals literally hundreds of miles away and in other states to find beds for our COVID patients, with very little success. Upwards of 96% of the patients hospitalized in this community with COVID are unvaccinated.

Health care ethicists are very concerned that physicians are going to have to make decisions like happened in New York City in the early days of the pandemic. They are going to have to choose between patients when it comes to who gets the scarce resources when hospitals become overwhelmed.

One of the debates among those ethicists is should those decisions include whether or not a patient has been vaccinated. To me, that is a decision that no health care provider should ever have to make. No provider should ever have to choose which patients get ventilators and hospital beds. No family should ever have to hear that news from a provider.

That we are back in this situation is so disheartening. Every single person in this community, including our kids, who can get vaccinated needs to get vaccinated. There are multiple places to get vaccinated; the vaccines are free. Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face. Stay home and away from others if you are sick. We have the power to stop this devastation. I am begging you, please, please help.