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Children's hospitals across Louisiana full with COVID patients, doctors warn

As the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads in a fourth surge, children are being heavily impacted.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana children's hospitals are currently filled to capacity with COVID patients, according to Children's Hospital's Physician-in-Chief. 

As the Delta variant continues to spread, children across the state are being hospitalized with severe COVID related illnesses.

"I am as worried about our children today as I have ever been. This virus, the Delta variant of COVID, is every infectious disease specialist's and epidemiologist's worst nightmare," said Dr. Mark Klein, Physician-in-Chief at Children's Hospital and a Professor of Pediatrics at LSUHSC and Tulane.

There are 11,109 new COVID cases in Louisiana since Friday, and over 2,000 are children, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

During a press conference today, Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke about how the youth account for a significant amount of new cases.

"Young people from 12 to 18 are a huge part of community transmission right now. So let's rid ourselves of the notion that children can't get COVID, or that they can't have serious cases of disease," he said.

Governor Edwards was also joined by several healthcare professionals who echoed the seriousness of the virus while urging people to wear masks and get vaccinated.

Dr. Phyllis Mason, Chief Medical Officer at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center said, "This opponent is stronger, he's bigger, he's better, he's smarter than us," and "if you're not going to trust the science and get a vaccine, respect the virus and wear a mask."

Louisiana's new mask mandate goes in to effect on Wednesday, but it only applies to people age 5-and-older. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 2 wear a mask while indoors.

The strain that the Delta variant has put on healthcare workers is also an issue during this fourth surge. There are only a handful of hospitals in the state that are equipped to handle pediatric care. Additionally, there is also a staffing shortage in healthcare which makes treatment more difficult for children and adults.

"Our staff is demoralized because they truly believe this surge was preventable if we had all done our part with vaccinations and with masking. Our staff is seeing deaths of young people, we're not accustomed to that," said Michelle Sutton, President and CEO at North Oaks Health System.

The statewide mask mandate goes in to effect on Wednesday, and it is set to end on Sept. 1. 

Children under 12 are not eligible to receive COVID vaccinations, but parents with children over the age of 12 are advised to consider vaccination.